Court orders release of settler who violated ban from West Bank

But judge freezes ruling for a day to allow for state appeal, requires Neria Zarog to abide by IDF order and be under father’s supervision 24/7

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Neria Zarog attaches himself to a saw machine in Yitzhar to avoid arrest for violating an administrative order on November 10, 2019. (Honenu)
Neria Zarog attaches himself to a saw machine in Yitzhar to avoid arrest for violating an administrative order on November 10, 2019. (Honenu)

The Petah Tikva Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday ordered the conditional release of a settler extremist, who violated an order barring him from the northern West Bank due to the threat he allegedly posed to surrounding Palestinians.

The judge placed a one-day stay of Neria Zarog’s release to allow the state to appeal the decision. Police had requested that the 21-year-old father of two remain behind bars until the end of proceedings against him.

During Tuesday’s hearing, prosecutors filed an indictment against Zarog for violating the Israel Defense Forces’ Central Command Order and for disrupting police officers from carrying out their duties when they tried to arrest him on Sunday evening.

Law enforcement spent five hours trying to haul off Zarog, who had cuffed himself to an iron contraption tied to the floor of a home in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar.

Neria Zarog, resident of the Jewish settlement of Itzhar, is brought to the Petah Tikvah Magistrate’s court after being arrested for violating a restraining order and barricading himself in an illegal house near the settlement in the West Bank, on November 11, 2019. (Hillel Maeir/Flash90)

The judge required Zarog to abide by the administrative order barring him from the northern West Bank, where he has lived in the hard-line Kumi Ori outpost — a southern neighborhood of Yitzhar. He also ordered Zarog to remain under the 24/7 supervision of his father until the conclusion of proceedings against him.

Zarog’s attorney Adi Keidar lauded the court decision to order the release of his client and slammed the police for its conduct in the case. The lawyer said that law enforcement was now claiming Zarog to be a danger to society, but for nearly a month and a half when his client had been openly violating the administrative order, police did not attempt to arrest him.

Three officers were lightly injured in clashes with local settlers during the arrest of Zarog earlier this week. Hundreds of young men “rioted and used severe violence, including throwing rocks, paint bottles and other objects” at the officers, police said in a statement. Damage was also caused to law enforcement vehicles. Three settlers were arrested during the mass altercation.

The right-wing Honenu legal aid organization, which is also representing Zarog, said that 15 protesters were injured and that police used excessive force in responding to the demonstration.

Zarog was also injured as police were trying to saw through his iron cuffs and accidentally nicked his leg. He spent the night in the hospital before being transferred to prison interrogation on Monday morning.

At the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court hearing on Monday, the police representative told the presiding judge that Central Command head Nadav Padan had been made privy to intelligence that indicated Zarog posed a threat to Palestinians before he signed the administrative order. Zarog is known as a hilltop youth, far-right youngsters who build and reside in illegal outposts and sometimes carry out so-called “price tag” attacks against Palestinians or their property.

Neria Zarog (c) with his wife and children in front of their home in the Kumi Ori outpost, a neighborhood of the Yitzhar settlement in the northern West Bank. The IDF has issued an order barring him from the West Bank. (Avraham Shapira)

Zarog’s attorneys argued that their client has never been presented with the details of the allegations against him and had a right to refuse the “draconian” administrative order.

The order against Zarog has been a catalyst to months of confrontations between local settlers and security forces. Zarog is a shepherd living in the illegal Kumi Ori outpost, whose residents have clashed with IDF troops several times in the past.

According to a defense official who spoke to The Times of Israel on condition of anonymity, Zarog is a “violent extremist well-known to security forces” who has taken part in altercations against Palestinians, as well as IDF troops.

Zarog claims he has not taken part in violent activities against Palestinians, but had been detained several times by Israeli security forces after approaching nearby villages with his flock.

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