Police no longer believe a settler accused of killing a Palestinian in a West Bank clash last week was motivated by racism, a court heard Friday, as a judge ordered the suspect to remain behind bars until next week at least.
The court ruled police could keep Yehiel Indore in custody until Tuesday. Law enforcement requested a 10-day extension, claiming it had significant evidence supporting their case.
In a clash on August 4 in the Palestinian village of Burqa, 19-year-old Qusai Jamal Matan was allegedly shot dead by Indore, who was arrested a day later. He is being held under police guard in a hospital, where he is being treated for a serious head injury he sustained when a Palestinian threw a rock at him in the clash.
The high-profile case has garnered international attention, as US-led efforts to calm Israeli-Palestinian tensions have run up against what observers say are rising cases of settler-perpetrated violence against Palestinians, fanned by far-right rhetoric from government politicians.
At the remand hearing, police revealed they no longer suspect a racial motive for Indore’s actions but still suspect him of killing Matan with intent or indifference, participating in a riot, conspiracy to commit a crime and obstruction of justice. Indore has claimed he fired his gun in self-defense.
Police on Friday claimed there was a “significant development” in the investigation that strengthened their case against Indore.
“We arrive today more focused in terms of evidence and in terms of the offenses,” a police representative told the court.
“Whoever wears a mask is not defending themselves, to my understanding,” the official added.
Police said Indore confessed during questioning he fired his gun during the incident, but denied aiming forward and claimed he shot into the air.
The force also appeared to imply Indore avoided being questioned during a planned interrogation Thursday.
“Shortly before Indore’s questioning, he was pacing in his hospital room and not complaining about pain at all. After receiving advice from his lawyers, he said he was not feeling well and refused to be questioned,” police said.
Police added that for most of the investigation, Indore has maintained his right to remain silent.
Judge Zion Sahrai said in his ruling that while the evidence against Indore was indeed bolstered, his claim of self-defense could not be ruled out.
“It is premature to reach concrete conclusions regarding the circumstances of the incident, and noting the length of time the suspect is in custody, one should strive to complete the investigation,” he said.
Indore was not present at the hearing, as he remains under police guard at a Jerusalem hospital. The district court ruled Tuesday that family members be allowed to visit him at the hospital, which they were previously barred from doing due to his arrest — although two coalition MKs were allowed to do so, sparking criticism.
Another Israeli suspect, Elisha Yered, was arrested on suspicion of being involved and obstructing the police investigation but was released to house arrest Wednesday. Law enforcement appealed on Thursday to have Yered rearrested, but the motion was dismissed by the Supreme Court.
Under the terms of his release, Yered — a former spokesman for Otzma Yehudit MK Limor Har Son-Melech — is being held under house arrest at his uncle’s home. He is prohibited from holding phone conversations and is permitted to leave the premises only to attend police questioning or court hearings.
A West Bank military court on Thursday ordered the release of four Palestinians arrested over the incident, with the judge saying there was “no reasonable suspicion” against them. A fifth suspect was released earlier in the week.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who heads the Otzma Yehudit party, denied Arab MK Ahmad Tibi permission to visit the Palestinians arrested in connection with the case, prompting the latter to accuse the government of blatant discrimination.
Former police officials have warned that Ben Gvir — a longtime radical and settlement activist with a history of incitement — is attempting to intervene in the investigation after he said Indore should be awarded a medal of honor and demanded police “expedite the investigation.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.