TV report says 16-year-old suspected of hurling fatal rock

Judge: ‘High level’ suspicions against key suspect in Palestinian woman’s death

Court backs Shin Bet’s conduct in probe of Jewish minors suspected in rock attack; while releasing 4 others to house arrest, judge says central suspect could pose ‘danger’ if freed

Suspects detained over their suspected involvement in the killing of a Palestinian woman are seen outside the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court after a judge releases them to house arrest, January 10, 2019. (Flash90)
Suspects detained over their suspected involvement in the killing of a Palestinian woman are seen outside the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court after a judge releases them to house arrest, January 10, 2019. (Flash90)

A judge at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court on Thursday said a Jewish minor who is the key suspect in a stoning attack that killed a Palestinian woman was facing suspicions of “a very high level.”

The judge extended the youth’s remand, while four other teenage suspects in the case were all released to house arrest at the request of police and the Shin Bet security service. The remand of the fifth suspect was extended until Tuesday. The teens are suspected of “terror offenses, including murder,” the agency said earlier this week, after months in which a gag order had prevented publication of information on the case.

Channel 10 TV news reported on Wednesday night that the remanded teen is 16 years old and is suspected of hurling the rock that killed Aisha Rabi, a Palestinian mother of eight.

Israel Police said in a statement that despite the strict gag order on details of the case and those suspected of involvement, it had asked presiding Judge Guy Avnon to permit publication of some of his remarks on extending the remand of the prime suspect.

Rabi was fatally struck on the head by a rock while driving in a car with her husband in the northern West Bank in October.

Aisha and Yakoub Rabi and their daughters (Courtesy)

“In the case of this suspect, the intensity of the suspicions is at a very high level,” Avnon said. “The offenses attributed to the suspect establish clear grounds for detention.”

He said releasing the suspect to alternative detention was out of the question, as he could present a danger to others or attempt to obstruct the investigation.

The Pri Haaretz Yeshiva in the Rehelim settlement on January 8, 2019. (Ofer Meir/Flash90)

The Shin Bet, which has led the investigation, has come under fire from far-right activists and some lawmakers over the minors’ extended detention, and has faced accusations of torture, which it has denied.

Avnon asserted that, based on the information he had seen, the Shin Bet was handling the investigation in a responsible manner.

“It is clear that the investigation unit, together with the Shin Bet, is carrying out a thorough, serious, strenuous investigation while attempting to reach the truth. At this time I have found that the investigating unit made proper use of the period of time in which the suspect was under arrest.”

Attorneys for the suspects have claimed that their clients have been tortured or mistreated in other ways.

The Shin Bet has flatly denied claims of misconduct, saying its investigation is being closely monitored by the State Prosecutor’s Office. It released a statement shortly after the court’s ruling accusing “interested parties” of “a deliberate and ongoing effort… to obstruct the course of the investigation, including the dissemination of false information regarding the conduct of the investigation.”

A gag order on details of the case or anything that may identify the suspect is in place until January 20, the police statement said.

For their part, the suspects’ lawyers argued that the court’s decision to conditionally release four of the teens proved that the Shin Bet and police’s nationalistic crimes unit did not possess serious evidence against them.

“My client endured 12 days of severe interrogations that caused him trauma, and now the question must be asked: Who will compensate him for such trauma?” said Itamar Ben Gvir, a lawyer representing one of the suspects sent to house arrest.

Itamar Ben Gvir seen outside a court hearing in Rishon Lezion, on the matter of the Jewish youth suspects in a major security probe whose details are under gag order on December 31, 2018. (Flash90)

On Sunday, the Shin Bet partially lifted a gag order on the case and announced that it had arrested the five, students from the Pri Haaretz yeshiva in the Rehelim settlement, on suspicion on involvement in the killing of Rabi, a 47-year-old Palestinian mother of eight.

Rabi was struck on the head by a large rock on the evening of October 12 as she traveled by car to her West Bank home with her husband and daughter. She was pronounced dead at a Nablus hospital a short time later.

Rabi’s husband, who was driving the targeted vehicle, said he heard a small group of Hebrew speakers at the scene shortly after the rock was thrown.

Police on Wednesday raided the Pri Haaretz yeshiva and summoned nearly 80 students for questioning at the Ariel Police Station, the Honenu group reported. The right-wing legal aid group said authorities have already questioned some 30 students at the yeshiva.

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