Police close case against settler suspected of killing Palestinian in June

Rights group representing Ali Harb’s family slams decision, citing ‘abundance of evidence’; Israeli man’s lawyer says he acted in self-defense

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

File: Mourners carry the body of Ali Harb, who was allegedly stabbed to death by an Israeli settler, during his funeral in the northern West Bank village of Iskaka on June 22, 2022. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)
File: Mourners carry the body of Ali Harb, who was allegedly stabbed to death by an Israeli settler, during his funeral in the northern West Bank village of Iskaka on June 22, 2022. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

Police prosecutors have decided to close a case against a settler suspected of stabbing a Palestinian man to death in June, a rights group representing the victim’s family said Thursday.

Palestinian witnesses said Ali Hassan Harb, a 27-year-old engineer, was stabbed in the chest by a settler on the outskirts of his hometown of Iskaka in the northern West Bank on June 21. A group of Israelis had arrived in the area with construction materials in an apparent attempt to build a new illegal outpost.

The 44-year-old suspect was arrested on suspicion of murder and obstruction of justice after he turned up at a local police station a day later, in order to submit a counter-complaint. The Israeli man’s lawyer said his client had narrowly survived an assault by dozens of Palestinians.

“Despite the abundance of evidence that reinforces the suspicion of premeditated murder by the settler, and contradicts his claim that he acted in self-defense, the prosecutor’s office announced today that the case is expected to be closed due to a lack of evidence, without an indictment against the suspect,” the Yesh Din rights group said in a statement.

Harb’s death was investigated by both the Shin Bet security service and Israel Police’s Nationalist Crimes Unit in the Judea and Samaria Division, which often investigates Jewish extremist violence.

Yesh Din railed against the investigation, which it said included “intimidation and threats against Ali Harb’s family members and other witnesses,” referring to three Palestinians who were arrested after they allegedly participated in the confrontation.

A lawyer from the Honenu legal aid organization representing the settler said the decision to close the case was “inevitable.”

“The suspect stood as a buffer between Arab rioters who took the law into their own hands and decided to attack a group of children whose only sin was participating in an educational activity in an area adjacent to the city of Ariel, which does not belong to the rioters, who chased, attacked and threw stones,” said lawyer Adi Kedar.

“My client had to defend himself and the children against this savage attack. The rioters and the family members of the deceased have nothing but themselves to complain about,” Kedar added.

Illustrative: Israeli security forces near Ariel in the West Bank, on March 17, 2019. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

Israeli officials told The Times of Israel last year that Jewish extremist violence in the West Bank was on the rise. The number of attacks rose in 2021 by nearly 50 percent, according to the Shin Bet.

Most of the cases are never solved. Between 2005 and 2021, just 7% of investigations into extremist violence against Palestinians have led to indictments, according to Yesh Din.

“The Israeli law enforcement system continues to provide criminals who harm Palestinians immunity from justice, even when they take a person’s life,” Yesh Din said Thursday.

Settler leaders have condemned some of the most brazen attacks, such as an incident near the outpost of Givat Ronen in which masked figures torched a car belonging to left-wing Israeli activists. They also say that the phenomenon is dwarfed by the number of attacks by Palestinians against Israelis.

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