Suspects in settler reprisals ordered to remain behind bars; fourth person detained

Jewish Israelis reportedly suspected of premeditated violence in connection with rampages through Palestinian towns; extremists said to be friends of terror victims

Damage caused to Palestinian homes and cars by Jewish extremists in the West Bank village of Turmus Ayya, on June 21, 2023 (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)
Damage caused to Palestinian homes and cars by Jewish extremists in the West Bank village of Turmus Ayya, on June 21, 2023 (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

Three extremist settlers had their remand extended on Friday after they were detained by the Shin Bet in recent days in the wake of widespread reprisal attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank following a deadly terror shooting.

Also on Friday it was announced that a fourth suspect, a 19-year-old man, had been detained.

According to the Ynet news site, the suspects were detained on suspicion of carrying out a premeditated act of violence.

The detention of the three Jewish Israeli men in their 20s was extended for three days, despite a request by investigators who had asked that the suspects be held for 10 days.

The suspects were not publicly identified, but according to Channel 12 news they were friends with at least one of the four victims in the Tuesday terror attack.

The right-wing legal aid group Honenu said the settlers had been denied legal counsel, a decision it described as “extraordinary.”

Illustrative — IDF soldiers and settlers at the entrance to the West Bank village of Turmus Ayya, June 21, 2023 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Channel 12 news reported that the decision to deny the suspects the opportunity to meet with their lawyers was an attempt to prevent any potential obstruction of justice or any actions that could jeopardize the arrests of other suspects.

A group of supporters of the detained men tried to block the prison vehicles as they arrived at court for a hearing.

The four suspects were the only people reported so far to have been detained in connection with the widespread violence — police have not announced any arrests.

Arrests of perpetrators of right-wing Jewish violence against Palestinians are exceedingly rare and rights groups lament that convictions are even more unusual, with the majority of charges in such cases being dropped.

Hours after the Tuesday terror attack near the settlement of Eli where four Israelis were gunned down at a gas station, an unknown number of settler vigilantes rampaged through several Palestinian towns in the northern West Bank, including Huwara, the scene of another deadly settler riot earlier this year after a terror attack.

The next day, hundreds of settlers also tore through the Palestinian towns of Turmus Ayya and Urif — shortly after the victims of the attack were buried — shooting at residents, setting homes, cars and fields on fire and terrorizing residents.

One Palestinian — 27-year-old Omar Qattin — was killed in unclear circumstances in Turmus Ayya.

Health officials said another 12 Palestinians were wounded during the attack by settlers and in clashes with Israeli troops. At least four were wounded by gunfire, including one listed in serious condition, according to the Palestinian Authority health ministry.

Despite surveillance footage apparently showing Jewish Israelis opening fire in the town, a defense source told The Times of Israel on Friday that Israeli security authorities were unaware of gunfire by settlers during the rioting.

Urif is the hometown of the Palestinian terrorists who carried out the shooting attack on Tuesday.

Security footage of one of the rampages showed a masked settler in Urif ripping apart a book and throwing the pages on the ground at a mosque in the city. Hebrew media reports said the book was a Quran but that could not yet be verified.

In the 60-second video, the man — who is accompanied by a dog — can be seen ripping pages out of several books and throwing them to the ground, as other masked suspects mill around.

In addition, extremists cut the electricity to Urif on Wednesday evening, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

On Thursday evening, Palestinian media outlets reported violent clashes between settlers and Palestinians near the West Bank village of Jalud, close to the settlement of Shiloh, and not far from Eli. Footage on social media showed settlers and Palestinians hurling stones at each other in the area. Another image showed a large fire burning near the village.

The settler reprisal attacks this week appeared to be a grim repeat of an incident in Huwara some termed a “pogrom” earlier this year, after another deadly Palestinian shooting attack in February.

The Shin Bet and the Israel Defense Forces detained at least 16 suspects over that incident, all of whom were eventually released without charge.

Palestinians inspect the damage to a Palestinian house after it was set on fire by extremist Jewish settlers in the West Bank town of Turmus Ayya on June 21, 2023 (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

The military has condemned the attacks, stressing that the settler violence made it harder for the army to focus on its main mission — protecting Israeli civilians.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday denounced the rioting in a statement that also addressed unrelated clashes in the Golan Heights between local Druze residents and the police, calling on Israelis to obey the law.

The Prime Minister’s Office also announced the impending authorization of 1,000 new homes in Eli as Israel’s “response to terror.”

The settler riots have also been condemned by the international community.

Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have been high across the West Bank for the past year and a half, with the military carrying out near-nightly raids in the West Bank, amid a series of deadly Palestinian terror attacks.

A field burns near the Palestinian village of Qusra in the West Bank, June 22, 2023 (Flash90)

Since the beginning of the year, Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank have killed 24 people, including Tuesday’s victims. Over the past year, Palestinian gunmen have repeatedly targeted troops carrying out arrest raids, military posts, Israeli settlements and civilians on roads, especially in the northern West Bank.

According to a tally by The Times of Israel, 132 West Bank Palestinians have been killed during that span, most of them during clashes with security forces or while carrying out attacks, but some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under unclear circumstances.

Israel’s Army Radio reported Thursday evening that Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar met with senior UN officials to discuss the deteriorating situation in the West Bank. Bar reportedly warned that the Palestinian Authority has lost control of some areas in the northern West Bank, leading to the uptick in violence, and said the Israeli military was being forced to operate in these areas.

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