5th suspect placed under administrative detention over settler riots last month

Aviah Aryeh, 20, allegedly attacked Palestinians and destroyed property in Luban a-Sharqiya following Eli terror attack, but authorities don’t have enough evidence to charge him

The damage caused to a Palestinian home by Jewish settlers in the West Bank village of Turmus Aya, on June 21, 2023. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)
The damage caused to a Palestinian home by Jewish settlers in the West Bank village of Turmus Aya, on June 21, 2023. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

A fifth Israeli suspected of involvement in last month’s settler rampages in Palestinian towns was placed under administrative detention on Monday, as the Defense Ministry expanded its controversial policy of holding suspects without charge, which it largely deploys only against Palestinians.

Aviah Aryeh, 20, of the Bruchin settlement in the northern West Bank, allegedly participated in a settler riot in the nearby Palestinian village of Luban a-Sharqiya, during which he attacked civilians and vandalized property, the Haaretz daily reported. Aryeh was arrested on Sunday and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant signed a four-month administrative order following a recommendation from the Shin Bet security service.

The tool is typically used when authorities have intelligence tying a suspect to a crime but do not have enough evidence for charges to stand in a court of law. Its use against settler extremists has become more common as of late, as many of them maintain their right to silence and refuse to cooperate with an investigation. Moreover, police are slower to arrive to the scene of crimes against Palestinians in the West Bank and often fail to collect evidence in time, if at all.

Four other young Jewish Israelis are currently under administrative detention over last month’s settler riots, which primarily took place in the Palestinian towns of Turmus Ayya and Urif — Shmuel Shahar, Yair Lubetsky, Yosef Yitzhak Kosaks and Shmuel Aryeh Shusterman, Haaretz said. In the Turmus Ayya rampage, one Palestinian was killed under unclear circumstances, though police have yet to even announce a probe into the matter.

In the wake of the Eli terror attack on June 20, hundreds of settlers rampaged in Palestinian towns and villages for five days, setting fire to homes, cars, and even opening fire in some cases.

One riot in the village of Turmus Ayya, during which the Palestinian was killed and 12 others were injured, involved arson, vandalism and live fire. Earlier this year, there was a brutal rampage in the Palestinian village of Huwara, also following a deadly Palestinian terror attack.

Israeli soldiers and settlers at the entrance to the West Bank town of Turmus Aya, June 21, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/ FLASH90)

The violence has sparked a wave of international condemnation and reignited a nationwide conversation on Jewish extremism and the proper role of police and the security establishment in countering such activity.

Israel is currently holding 1,128 Palestinians without trial or charge, the highest figure since 2003, the HaMoked Israeli rights group said last week.

The number of those held in administrative detention has risen steadily over the past year and a half, as Israel has conducted near-nightly arrest raids in the West Bank in response to a spate of deadly terror attacks against Israelis.

Israel says administrative detention is a tool that helps keep dangerous terrorists off the streets and allows the government to hold suspects without divulging sensitive intelligence. Critics say the policy denies prisoners due process.

The detentions must be renewed by a military court every six months, and Palestinian prisoners can remain in jail for years under the mechanism. Some resort to life-threatening hunger strikes to draw attention to their detentions.

Far-right members of the government such as National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir have called on Gallant to cease use the tool against Jewish Israelis, while backing its continued use against Palestinians and its expansion against Arab Israelis.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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