ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 143

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Labor party chief: Government includes supporters of terror

Lawyers for settlers suspected in killing of Palestinian claim self-defense

Suspects named as Yehiel Indore and Elisha Yered, a former spokesman for far-right Otzma Yehudit MK; their attorneys say incident on private Palestinian land was ‘a true lynching’

Elisha Yered, suspected of involvement in the death of 19-year-old Palestinian Qusai Jamal Matan in the West Bank village of Burqa a day earlier, arrives for a hearing at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, August 5, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Elisha Yered, suspected of involvement in the death of 19-year-old Palestinian Qusai Jamal Matan in the West Bank village of Burqa a day earlier, arrives for a hearing at the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, August 5, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Lawyers for two settlers suspected in the killing of a Palestinian man during a West Bank clash asserted Saturday that they had acted in self-defense after a mob attacked them and other Israelis.

They were identified Saturday night as Elisha Yered, a former spokesman for the far-right Otzma Yehudit party’s MK Limor Son Har-Melech, and Yehiel Indore.

Indore is believed to be the person who shot 19-year-old Qusai Jamal Matan. Yered is suspected of interfering with the investigation.

A court extended the pair’s remand until Wednesday.

On Friday night, Matan was fatally shot in the neck outside the West Bank town of Burqa, close to Ramallah, on private Palestinian land, according to Palestinian health officials and Israeli defense sources. He was buried on Saturday. According to the PA’s official Wafa news agency, the clashes broke out after settlers attacked the village, leading residents to confront them.

The right-wing legal aid group Honenu said “dozens of Arab attackers” had on Friday targeted a Jewish shepherd and others who had come from the illegal Oz Zion outpost to help them, with the Palestinians using rocks, clubs and fireworks.

Qusai Jamal Matan (Courtesy)

Honenu said the main suspect — later identified as Indore — was seriously hurt after being struck in the head by a rock thrown at him, and that he had undergone head surgery and was suffering from a fractured skull and intracerebral hemorrhage. Police officers were stationed next to his bed in the hospital’s intensive care department.

Yered is a resident of the illegal West Bank outpost of Migron while Indore lives in the Ofra settlement.

The Honenu statement said that after Indore was injured, “with his last drops of strength, the settler succeeded in defending himself with his personal weapon, for which he holds a license.” It added that the second suspect, Yered, had helped evacuate Indore from the scene and bring him to an ambulance.

“My client acted according to the law and as is required of any gun license holder — to defend his life and the lives of other citizens,” said lawyer Nati Rom.

Rom urged authorities to arrest and indict the Palestinians involved in the clash, arguing: “This is a miracle, my client is the victim of a grave terror attack. Thanks to his resourcefulness, he and his friends are now alive… This was an attempt to murder a group of Jews — a true lynching.”

Mourners carry the body of 19-year-old Palestinian Qusai Jamal Matan, during his funeral in the town of Burqa in the West Bank on August 5, 2023. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)

The IDF has said that according to witnesses, clashes had erupted adjacent to Burqa after settlers from a nearby outpost herded sheep in the area. Palestinians from the town then approached the settlers to push them out from their lands, when a verbal confrontation erupted. At one point, both sides began hurling stones at each other, the IDF said, adding that Palestinians also launched fireworks.

“During the confrontation, Israeli civilians shot toward the Palestinians. As a result of the confrontation, a Palestinian was killed, four others were injured, and a Palestinian vehicle was found burnt,” the IDF said in a statement Saturday.

MK Har-Melech, Yered’s former employer, slammed the arrests, likening the shooter to a Tel Aviv municipal guard killed Saturday evening by a Palestinian terrorist in the coastal city.

“When a patrolman in Tel Aviv kills a terrorist he is met with applause from all the security figures, but when a Jew defends his life in [the West Bank] before an Arab mob that rose up to kill him, he’s arrested while still injured,” she tweeted.

Otzma Yehudit MK Limor Son Har-Melech attends a Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem on February 23, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“I suggest security services direct their efforts toward dealing with the nests of terror instead of chasing after [settlers] who hold on to our land with devotion,” added Son Har-Melech.

Somewhat undercutting the settlers’ position, an unidentified security source told Ynet that Yered “has been heating things up in the area for a long while, also leading to a rise in Palestinian terror and rock throwing.”

The outlet noted that Yered had in the past called for the “erasure” of Palestinian villages on social media as well as for “revenge…with blood” for attacks, saying if security forces did not do so, “brave Jews” would.

Earlier this year he was named by the right-wing Channel 14 as one of “Israel’s most promising young individuals.”

Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces on Saturday rejected settler claims that troops were slow in arriving at the scene.

“The claims that the IDF and security forces dawdled are not true and a false representation,” a statement from the IDF said.

Mourners cry after taking the last look at the body of Qusai Matan, 19, during his funeral in the West Bank village of Burqa, east of Ramallah, Saturday, Aug. 5, 2023 (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

According to the IDF, the sides first began gathering at Burqa around 7 p.m., and at 8:07 p.m., the military received an initial Palestinian report of a clash in the area.

Troops were then dispatched to the scene, but were unable to find it “because the location they received was wrong,” the IDF statement said.

At 8:52 p.m., the military said it first heard from settlers about fighting between Palestinians and residents of the nearby Oz Zion outpost. The IDF said soldiers received the proper coordinates seventeen minutes later and arrived at the scene at 9:20 p.m., “after the shooting.”

Amid concerns of further violence, the IDF on Saturday declared the area of the deadly incident a closed military zone, and stationed a number of soldiers in it.

The office of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh demanded that the perpetrators “not be allowed to escape punishment.”

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid said in a statement that the West Bank was becoming a battleground between Jewish and Arab terrorists.

“The hilltop youth are turning Judea and Samaria into a battleground between the terror of Jewish terrorists and the terror of Arab terrorists,” he tweeted. “It endangers the settlements, which are mostly [made up of] law-abiding citizens, endangers our soldiers, and harming innocents is against every Jewish or democratic value. The backing they get from within the most extreme coalition in the history of the state [amounts to] a diplomatic attack.”

Netanyahu “should harshly condemn the violence that harms national security, the IDF and the settlements,” Lapid said.

A screenshot of video purporting to show Israeli settlers rampaging in a Palestinian village near Ramallah on August 4, 2023. (screen capture: Twitter)

The leader of the opposition’s Labor party, MK Merav Michaeli, said: “It’s time to say this loud and clear: The Netanyahu government includes supporters of terrorists and terror. If they want to deport the families of terrorists, they can start with deporting the family of the terrorist settler.”

Hussein al-Sheikh, the Palestinian Authority’s civil affairs minister and secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee, called for Otzma Yehudit to be designated as a “terrorist party.”

Secretary general of the Executive Committee of the PLO Hussein al-Sheikh gives an interview to The Associated Press at his office Ramallah, June 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

“We call on the international community and international institutions to consider the party of the terrorist Itamar Ben Gvir as a terrorist party due to its personal and partisan history of inciting the killing of Palestinians,” al-Sheikh tweeted Saturday.

The United Nations’ Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland on Saturday strongly condemned ” the deplorable acts of settler violence” and called for “perpetrators [to be] held accountable.” Wennesland also condemned Saturday’s deadly Tel Aviv terror attack, saying “There can be no justification for acts of terrorism.”

Friday’s incident came after several other Palestinians were killed in disputed circumstances involving settlers. In June, a Palestinian was shot dead during a settler rampage in Turmus Ayya that followed a deadly attack and in February a Palestinian was killed while settlers rioted in Huwara after a terror shooting.

Also in February, the Shin Bet joined police in investigating the killing of a Palestinian man near Qarawat Bani Hassan in the West Bank, allegedly by Israeli settlers.

There has been a rise in settler violence in recent months, with the UN on Friday reporting there have been nearly 600 attacks on Palestinians and their property over the past six months.

The riots have been condemned by a number of politicians, including some from the hardline right-wing coalition, but there has been little clear-cut condemnation from settlement leaders.

The government has pledged to hold those behind the settler rampages accountable. Two suspects have since been charged in the Turmus Ayya rioting in June. Five Israelis have been held under administrative detention for their involvement.

Hundreds were filmed taking part in the attacks.

Emanuel Fabian and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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