Five settlers arrested over deadly reprisals following teen’s murder in West Bank

Gallant signs administrative detention orders for Israelis suspected of violence against Palestinians after 14-year-old was found dead

File: Armed settlers gather on a hill overlooking the village of al-Mughayyir near Ramallah in the West Bank on April 13, 2024 (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)
File: Armed settlers gather on a hill overlooking the village of al-Mughayyir near Ramallah in the West Bank on April 13, 2024 (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Sunday signed administrative detention warrants for five Jewish settlers suspected of taking part in reprisals against Palestinians following the recent slaying of an Israeli teenager in the West Bank.

The arrest warrants were announced in a statement from Honenu, a far-right group providing legal representation to the suspects, which said five settlers were arrested Sunday morning by police in the West Bank.

There was no official police statement on the arrest warrants.

The body of 14-year-old Benjamin Achimeir was discovered on April 13, a day after he left a farm near the outpost Malachei Shalom to go shepherding, with security forces saying he was killed in a terror attack. Police last week arrested a Palestinian man suspected of killing Achimeir.

During the searches for the suspect, Jewish extremists attacked nearby Palestinian communities, including the village of al-Mughayyir, where settlers set fire to houses and cars, sparking clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces. A Palestinian man was killed and dozens of others were injured during the clashes, including an Israeli journalist.

The day after Achimeir’s body was found, there were reports of renewed clashes between settlers and Palestinians in the towns of Beitin and Duma, close to Ramallah.

14-year-old Benjamin Achimeir, who went missing in the West Bank on April 12, 2024 and was found murdered a day later. (Courtesy)

Clashes also ensued in al-Mughayyir, where six Palestinians were injured, one of them critically after being shot in the head, according to the Palestinian Authority official news outlet Wafa.

In a separate statement, which described some of the suspects as “married and fathers to children,” Honenu said the five were arrested for separate periods of six, four and three months.

Honenu shared a picture on social media of one of the arrest warrants, with the suspect’s name and identification number redacted. The document, signed by Gallant, ordered the arrest of an Israeli citizen for six months starting Sunday on grounds of “state security or public safety.”

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who used to work for Honenu, slammed Gallant for signing the warrants.

“Gallant’s persecution of the settlers is exactly what the antisemitic court in The Hague does to the Israeli government,” Ben Gvir, who chairs the ultranationalist Otzma Yehudit party, claimed in a social media post.

“An irresponsible move by the Shin Bet [security agency] and Gallant that will only give more ammo to the haters of Israel,” he added.

The Haaretz daily identified one of the suspects as a minor and named the others as Boaz Shpitz, Elhai Carmeli, Tzadok Hacohen and Neria Zarog. According to the newspaper, Carmeli was jailed for 6 months, Hacohen for 4 months, and the others for 3 months each.

A Palestinian inspects the damage to a home in the village of al-Mughayyir near Ramallah in the West Bank on April 13, 2024, after an attack by Israeli settlers on the village. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)

Carmeli and Hacohen were held in administrative detention last year for allegedly taking part in a deadly rampage through the Palestinian West Bank town of Huwara. Zarog has previously been ordered by the military to leave the West Bank for several months on at least two occasions.

Administrative detention is primarily used for Palestinian terror suspects but the orders have also been used with a handful of Jewish-Israeli terror suspects in recent years.

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 up in a court of law.

Its use against settler extremists has become more common recently, as many of them maintain their right to silence and refuse to cooperate with investigations.

Settler violence spiked after the October 7 massacre carried out by the Hamas terror group in southern Israel, in which some 1,200 people were killed and 253 were taken hostage, but violence was already on the rise before then, according to watchdogs.

A Palestinian inspects the damage to his belongings in the village of Mughayir near Ramallah in the West Bank on April 13, 2024, after an alleged attack by Israeli settlers on the village. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh / AFP)

Since October 7, troops have arrested some 3,850 wanted Palestinians across the West Bank, including more than 1,650 affiliated with Hamas. According to the Palestinian Authority health ministry, more than 450 West Bank Palestinians have been killed in that time.

In the same period, at least 13 Israelis, among them two members of security forces, have been killed by Palestinians in the West Bank, according to an Israeli tally.

Agencies contributed to this report. 

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