A Palestinian terror suspect who was hospitalized in critical condition following interrogation by the Shin Bet security service regained consciousness on Tuesday after more than two weeks, Hebrew-language media reported.
The questioning of Samer Arbid, the alleged head of a terror cell that carried out a bombing in August in which an Israeli teenager was killed, is expected to continue shortly.
Earlier this month, Arbid’s lawyer Mahmoud Hassan argued at the Ofer Military court that his client had “undergone severe torture” while in Israeli custody that caused him to be taken to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus with severe internal injures, including broken ribs and kidney failure.
Hassan had petitioned the court for Arbid’s release due to his injuries, but the court denied the request.
Israeli security forces initially arrested Arbid, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group, near Ramallah in September for planning the West Bank bombing attack in August that killed Israeli teenager Rina Shnerb, but released him shortly after due to lack of evidence.
The 44-year-old was picked up again later in the month, and according to security sources, the Shin Bet was given permission to employ “extraordinary measures” during his interrogation. Such measures can include beatings, forcing prisoners into uncomfortable positions, sleep deprivation, shackling and subjecting prisoners to extreme temperatures.
This is typically allowed in “ticking time bomb” cases where there is concern the suspect could provide security forces with information that could prevent an imminent attack.
Arbid was admitted to Hadassah in critical condition. His attorneys said he had been healthy when he was arrested several days earlier.
The Shin Bet security service later confirmed Arbid was taken to a hospital, saying only that he “did not feel well” during interrogation. Unconfirmed reports in Hebrew-language media said that Arbid, who did not deny the allegations against him, suffered a heart-related problem during the interrogation.
Channel 13 reported that Israeli officials suspect that Arbid was not injured during interrogation but in the course of his arrest in the Ramallah suburb of Al Bireh, which was “very violent.”
Palestinian prisoner advocacy group Addameer has said that Arbid was “harshly beaten” by the Israeli security forces who arrested him and that Shin Bet investigators “continued using torture and ill-treatment” afterwards.
The Palestinian Authority appealed for help internationally, claiming that Arbid was “severely tortured” by Israel in violation of the Geneva Conventions.
The Justice Ministry has launched an investigation into Arbid’s injuries, specifically probing the degree of force along with the tactics used by the Shin Bet interrogators.
On August 23, an IED that had been planted next to the Bubin natural spring in the central West Bank was triggered by terrorists as the Shnerb family from the central Israeli town of Lod visited the site. Rina Shnerb, 17, was declared dead at the scene and her father Eitan and brother Dvir, 19, were taken to a hospital in Jerusalem after being wounded by the blast.
Other suspects arrested in the wake of the deadly attack, Qassem a-Karim Rajah Shibli and Yasan Hasin Hasni Majamas, have served time in Israeli prisons for their involvement in terrorist activities, according to the Shin Bet.
The Shin Bet said it also arrested Nizam Sami Yousef Ulad Mahmoud, 21, who is suspected of being a member of Arbid’s cell. He is a member of the PFLP’s student group at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank.
The Shin Bet said it was still looking for additional members of the terror cell.