Police raid settlement yeshiva, summon 80 teens in deadly Jewish terror probe

Students at Pri Haaretz in Rehelim ordered to report for questioning on rock-throwing attack that killed Palestinian woman in October; 5 teens already arrested

Illustrative: Students pray at the Pri Haaretz yeshiva in the northern West Bank settlement of Rehelim. (Screen capture/YouTube)
Illustrative: Students pray at the Pri Haaretz yeshiva in the northern West Bank settlement of Rehelim. (Screen capture/YouTube)

Police on Wednesday raided the northern West Bank yeshiva attended by the five high school students suspected of a fatal stone-throwing attack in October that killed a Palestinian woman, the Honenu legal aid organization representing the teens said.

The officers handed out summonses to some 80 students at the Pri Haaretz yeshiva, ordering them to present themselves for questioning immediately at the police station in nearby settlement of Ariel.

According to the Haaretz daily, police have already questioned 30 Pri Haaretz students, and the summonses Wednesday were for the remaining high school students attending the Jewish seminary in the settlement of Rehelim in the northern West Bank.

Honenu called the raid illegal, saying it was carried out without a warrant. Honenu attorney Ari Keidar demanded the officers’ “grave conduct” be investigated by the police’s internal investigations department.

Earlier this week, the Shin Bet security service partially lifted a gag order on the case and announced that three students from Pri Haaretz had been arrested in late December in connection to the killing of 47-year-old Aisha Rabi, and another two students were arrested last weekend.

Rabi, a mother of eight, was struck on the head by a rock on the evening of October 12 as she traveled to her West Bank home with her husband and daughter. She died of her injuries at a Nablus hospital a short time later, Palestinian official news agency WAFA reported at the time.

Rabi’s husband said they saw a small group of settlers nearby at the time of the attack.

On Sunday, the Shin Bet partially lifted a gag order on the case, confirming the fatal rock-throwing took place at Tapuah Junction, outside the settlement of Rehelim and adjacent to Rabi’s hometown village of Bidiya in the northern West Bank.

The agency said the suspects in custody in connection to the attack were seminary students from the Pri Haaretz, and were being detained for “serious terrorist offenses, including murder.”

A car belonging to a Palestinian couple is seen after it was involved in a deadly crash reportedly due to stone-throwing by Israeli settlers at the Tapuah Junction in the northern West Bank on October 12, 2018. (Zachariah Sadeh/Rabbis for Human Rights); Aisha Muhammad Talal Rabi (Courtesy)

On Sunday, a Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s court judge remanded all five suspects in custody until Thursday, and ordered police to investigate a complaint by one of the suspects who claimed he was violently interrogated by Shin Bet security agents. All of them were for a time deprived of the right to meet with their attorneys, though they since have been able to do so. Israeli law allows authorities to delay an attorney visit for a terrorism suspect by up to 21 days, subject to court appeal.

Israeli investigations into Jewish terrorism — as such cases are often referred to — are highly sensitive. Left-wing activists have accused authorities of dragging their feet in such cases in comparison to investigations into Palestinian attacks, while far-right Israelis say Jewish terror suspects have undergone coercion and torture.

Illustrative: Jewish settlers throw stones near the West Bank village of Hawara, after five people were killed in the nearby Jewish settlement of Itamar Saturday, March 12, 2011. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)

In late December, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs released statistics ahead of the new year that showed a 69 percent increase in settler attacks on Palestinians in 2018 compared to 2017.

OCHA recorded 265 incidents in which Israeli residents of the West Bank allegedly targeted Palestinians or their property. In total, 115 Palestinians were injured in those attacks and 7,900 trees and 540 vehicles were destroyed.

Commenting on the numbers last week, an unnamed defense official last week confirmed that 2018 saw a significant rise in so-called “price tag” attacks — a name used by far-right Israelis to justify targeting Palestinians and even IDF soldiers. The phrase marks the attacks as ostensible retaliation for terror attacks and Israeli government actions deemed hostile to the settler movement.

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