Shin Bet opens probe as settlers suspected in deadly stoning of Palestinian car

Thousands attend funeral for mother of eight killed when car pelted with rocks; husband says he heard assailants speak Hebrew; Abbas: ‘An ugly crime. It cannot go unpunished’

Palestinian carry the body of 48-year-old mother of eight, Aisha Rabi, who died of her wounds after the car she was travelling in with her husband was hit by stones, during her funeral in the West Bank village of Biddya, on October 13, 2018. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)
Palestinian carry the body of 48-year-old mother of eight, Aisha Rabi, who died of her wounds after the car she was travelling in with her husband was hit by stones, during her funeral in the West Bank village of Biddya, on October 13, 2018. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Hundreds of people on Saturday attended the West Bank funeral of Aisha Muhammad Talal Rabi, killed Friday night in a stone-throwing attack that caused her car to crash, and which has been blamed on Jewish settlers.

According to Yesh Din, which documents alleged Israeli rights abuses in the West Bank, the stone-throwing at the Tapuah Junction caused 47-year-old Rabi’s husband Aykube to lose control of the car. AP reported that she was killed by a rock that hit her in the head. There was no official word on the exact cause of death.

Rabi was laid to rest Saturday in the village of Biddya, southwest of Nablus.

Aykube told Reuters the couple was driving near a settlement when the attack occurred. “The stones came from the side where the settlement is. I could hear the people speak Hebrew, but I didn’t see them.”

Aisha Muhammad Talal Rab (Courtesy)

A spokesman for the Shin Bet confirmed Saturday that the security agency opened a probe into the incident, suggesting that it was indeed suspected of being an act of terror carried out by area settlers. The nationalistic crime unit of the police’s Judea and Samaria (West Bank) District is also probing the death, which has been placed under a gag order, although authorities have not ruled out the possibility that a group of Palestinians stone throwers mistook Rabi’s vehicle for an Israeli one.

Right-wing activist and lawyer Itamar Ben Gvir said Shin Bet should not be involved in the probe. “Experience shows the Jewish Division investigates… in an aggressive and problematic manner which does not allow the truth to come out, but at most brings out false confessions.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told Rabi’s family Saturday: “This is a terribly ugly crime, carried out by settlers under the protection of the occupation state. It cannot go unpunished.”

Thousands of relatives and neighbors attended Rabi’s funeral. Her body was wrapped in a Palestinian flag as grievers carried the coffin to the cemetery.

“With our blood and our spirit we will redeem the martyr,” shouted the angry mourners. Aisha’s brother, Ibrahim Bolad, said there was no doubt, “settlers threw stones at the car.”

Terror group Hamas issued a leaflet Saturday including Rabi among the “martyrs” killed in clashes with Israel the day prior on the Gaza border, Hadashot news reported.

Reuters footage of the car following the crash showed a bloodstained brick below the passenger seat.

Rabi’s cousin Isam Rabi said her husband spotted a small group of settlers close to the scene.

The mother of eight was taken to a hospital in Nablus where she succumbed to her wounds. Her husband received a head wound during the crash, but Yesh Din did not specify the severity of his injury.

Following reports of the fatal crash, Rabbis for Human Rights warned of a “deteriorating situation” in the West Bank.

Palestinian relatives of 48-year-old mother of eight Aisha Rabi attend her funeral in the West Bank village of Biddya on October 13, 2018. (Photo by JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

“There has been an increase in the rate of injury to Palestinian civilians,” it said in a statement, calling on Israeli security forces to protect Palestinians.

“At the same time, our organization condemns any kind of aggression against all parties.”

Just hours after the burial Saturday afternoon, a Yesh Din field worker filmed a half a dozen of Israelis hurling stones at a pair of Palestinians working their fields in between the northern West Bank villages of Burin and Hawara. Dressed in traditional white sabbath garb, the settlers could be seen gathering the olives that the farmers were in the middle of cultivating before they fled to safety.

MK Yehudah Glick of the ruling Likud party called for the perpetrators to face justice. “If Jewish settlers indeed threw rocks at Palestinian cars and killed a woman, they must be found and put on trial as soon as possible, and punished,” he said in a tweet. Glick, who is himself a resident of a West bank settlement, added, “Killers are also enemies of the settlement movement.”

Friday’s incident in the northern West Bank came amid high tensions after a pair of terror attacks against Israelis in the area earlier in the week.

On Sunday, two Israelis were killed by a Palestinian coworker in a terror shooting at the Barkan Industrial Park and on Thursday an IDF reservist was moderately hurt in a stabbing attack outside an army base.

The Shin Bet security service announced the arrest of the suspected assailant hours after Thursday’s stabbing, though Ashraf Na’alow, the suspect in the shooting attack, remains on the run.

Following the stabbing, more than a dozen settler youths were filmed hurling stones at Palestinian cars stopped at an IDF checkpoint that was erected after the attack.

Footage documented by a field worker for the Yesh Din rights group shows some 15 young Israelis fleeing a hilltop adjacent to the Yitzhar settlement and piling into a pair of vehicles after a police van arrives at the scene.

The two Israeli vehicles seen in the video clip manage to speed away without being stopped by authorities.

According to Yesh Din, the settlers later returned to a nearby hilltop, from which they continued throwing rocks at Palestinians. The rights group claimed IDF troops at the scene did not act to stop the settlers. There was no immediate comment from the army.

In response to the stabbing, pro-settler leaders urged the government to step up its measures against terrorism, with one urging action “as if in war.”

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