A West Bank military court on Thursday ordered the release of four Palestinians suspected of involvement in a clash between local residents and settlers in the village of Burqa last week, during which a Palestinian was killed. A fifth suspect had been released previously.
The judge ruled there was “no reasonable suspicion” against the group and said the investigation could continue while they were free. They were freed under certain restrictions.
In a clash Friday night in the Palestinian village of Burqa, 19-year-old Qusai Jamal Matan was allegedly shot dead by settler Yehiel Indore, who was arrested a day later. Another Israeli suspect, Elisha Yered, was arrested on suspicion of being involved and obstructing the police investigation.
On Wednesday, a Jerusalem court accepted a police appeal against the release of Indore — who is hospitalized under police guard — but approved the release of Yered to house arrest. Law enforcement appealed on Thursday to have Yered rearrested, but the motion was dismissed by the Supreme Court.
The five Palestinians — all members of one family — were also arrested over their involvement in the clash in which Indore was wounded. The fifth suspect, a minor, was released from custody on Tuesday.
The settlers claim they acted in self-defense as they were being pelted with rocks thrown by Palestinians, but investigators have cast doubt on their version of events.
Palestinians say settlers initiated the clash when they arrived on their village’s lands.
In their failed appeal Thursday against Yered’s release, prosecutors claimed he “endangers public order,” and that his release to house arrest “could cause real damage to the completion of the investigation.”
Yered, a former spokesman for the far-right Otzma Yehudit party’s MK Limor Son Har-Melech, was released from police custody Wednesday evening following a day of hearings, which in an unusual move included the Jerusalem District Court hearing from a Shin Bet official who weighed in on the police appeal.
Judge Tamar Bar-Asher later told the court that while the Shin Bet had shown her a “short video,” it did not play a role in her decision to order Yered released to house arrest: “The evidence against Elisha Yered has not been strengthened. The information is interesting but not connected to the incident.”
During Thursday’s remand hearing at the Ofer Military Court, the lawyer for the Palestinian suspects claimed to have seen the video in question.
According to Channel 12 news, attorney Ismail Tawil said that the video showed a group of 40 or 50 settlers entering at least two kilometers into Burqa village — contrary to earlier claims that the clash took place on the outskirts of the town. One of the detained Palestinians reportedly told the court that the settlers “attacked elders who were in their houses with tear gas and were carrying M16 rifles and pistols.”
In contrast, the IDF said Saturday that according to witnesses, clashes erupted adjacent to Burqa after settlers from a nearby outpost herded sheep in the area. Palestinians from the town 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 and Palestinians also launched fireworks.
“During the confrontation, Israeli civilians fired 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.
Under the terms of his release, Yered will be held under house arrest at his uncle’s home. He is prohibited from holding phone conversations and is permitted to leave the premises only to attend police questioning or court hearings.
Indore is under police guard at a Jerusalem hospital, where he is being treated for a serious head injury he sustained when a Palestinian threw a rock at him in the clash. The district court ruled Tuesday that family members be allowed to visit him at the hospital, which they were previously barred from doing due to his arrest — although two coalition MKs were allowed to do so, sparking criticism.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who heads the Otzma Yehudit party, denied Arab MK Ahmad Tibi permission to visit the Palestinians arrested in connection with case, prompting the latter to accuse the government of blatant discrimination.
Former police officials have warned that Ben Gvir — a longtime radical and settlement activist with a history of incitement — is attempting to intervene in the investigation, after he said Indore should be awarded a medal of honor and demanded police “expedite the investigation.”