Israeli security forces early on Thursday arrested a senior member of the terror group suspected of being behind a bombing attack outside the Dolev settlement in August that killed Israeli teenage girl Rina Shnerb and serious injured her father and brother, Palestinian media reported.
Walid Muhammad Hanatsheh, a longtime member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was detained in his home in the village of At-Tira, outside Ramallah, as part of a series of predawn arrest raids in the central West Bank.
The Shin Bet security service refused to comment on the reports of Hanatsheh’s arrest. The Israel Defense Forces said a total of 13 Palestinian suspects were arrested in overnight raids.
“The investigation into the cell is ongoing. We are not providing information about any arrests at this time,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.
According to Palestinian media, the predawn raids took place mainly in and around the city of Ramallah, the area from which the terror cell behind the Dolev bombing attack is believed to have come.
Riots broke out throughout the Ramallah area during the arrest raids, with residents throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli jeeps.
Palestinian media reported that Israeli security forces also searched the home of Hanatsheh, who has been involved in PFLP activities since at least the Second Intifada in the early 2000s.
جانب من آثار الخراب الذي خلّفه الاحتلال داخل منزل وليد حناتشة أثناء اعتقاله في حيْ الطيرة بمدينة #رام_الله.
تصوير: رامز عوّاد pic.twitter.com/PiSQWNod00
— شبكة قدس الإخبارية (@qudsn) October 3, 2019
On Saturday night, the Shin Bet revealed that it had arrested several members of the PFLP cell suspected of carrying out the deadly bombing attack at the Ein Bubin natural spring outside Dolev in the central West Bank. A short time later, it was reported that the alleged head of the cell, Samer Arbid, had been taken to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital Mount Scopus in critical condition following his interrogation by the Shin Bet.
Arbid showed signs of improvement on Wednesday, but remained in critical condition, according to his lawyer.
Mahmoud Hassan told the Ofer military court that his client Arbid was still attached to a ventilator at Hadassah Hospital with severe internal injures, including broken ribs and kidney failure.
Hassan petitioned the court for Arbid’s release due to his injuries, arguing that his client had “undergone severe torture” while in Israeli custody, according to Hebrew media reports.
The court denied the request, and ruled that due to the improvement in Arbid’s condition, the Shin Bet would likely be able to resume interrogating him “in the coming days.”
Though the judge rejected the request, she ordered Arbid’s medical records be turned over to the defense, and allowed greater visitation rights by his family members while he recovers.
The court planned to convene again on Thursday for a hearing, during which prosecutors were expected to ask the court to remand Arbid in custody until the end of his legal proceedings.
Israeli security forces initially arrested Arbid, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group, near Ramallah earlier in September on suspicion that he had planned the bombing attack, but released him shortly after due to lack of evidence.
The 44-year-old was picked up again last Wednesday, 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.
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.
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.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.