White House official: Netanyahu must curb settler violence

Settler activist given four months of administrative detention

Ariel Danino arrested amid rise in violent attacks against West Bank Palestinians at hands of Jewish settlers since October 7

Jewish settlers seen during the demolition of six illegally built structures at the outpost of Kumi Ori, outside the Jewish settlement of Yitzhar, in the West Bank, April 22, 2020. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)
Jewish settlers seen during the demolition of six illegally built structures at the outpost of Kumi Ori, outside the Jewish settlement of Yitzhar, in the West Bank, April 22, 2020. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

Prominent settlement activist Ariel Danino was put into administrative detention for four months after Defense Minister Yoav Gallant approved the order on Sunday.

The order — which enables authorities to hold a suspect without charges for indefinitely renewable periods and was reportedly approved by the Shin Bet — cited “a reasonable foundation to assume that state security/public security requires” his detention.

The order is dated October 29 to February 28.

Danino was arrested on Saturday night in the illegal outpost of Kumi Ori close to the Yitzhar settlement in the northern West Bank by Border Police forces and Shin Bet agents, some of whom were masked.

Security forces blocked off roads in the outpost while the arrest operation was underway, according to the far-right Kol Hayehudi online news site.

Videos uploaded to social media showed Danino flashing the victory sign while sitting in the back of a security services vehicle after he was arrested.

It was not clear what specifically prompted Danino’s detention.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir took to X, formerly Twitter, on Sunday afternoon to criticize the detention.

“The administrative detention of pioneer citizens who stand on the front line for the people and the country and are treated as an ‘enemy’ is part of the conception that must end,” wrote the Ben Gvir, the leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party. “You have to differentiate between a loved one and an enemy.”

Administrative detention is primarily used for Palestinian terror suspects — about 1,000 of whom are currently held in custody under the practice.

The orders have also been used with a handful of Jewish-Israeli terror suspects in recent years.

The tool is typically used when authorities have intelligence tying a suspect to a crime but do not have enough evidence for charges to stand up in a court of law.

Its use against settler extremists has become more common recently, as many of them maintain their right to silence and refuse to cooperate with investigations. Moreover, police are slower to arrive at the scene of crimes against Palestinians in the West Bank and often fail to collect evidence in time, if at all.

According to the anti-settlement group Peace Now, extremist settlers from Yitzhar and surrounding settlements and outposts have been involved in dozens of attacks against Palestinians in the last decade.

On Saturday, 40-year-old Palestinian Bilal Muhammed Saleh, 40, was allegedly shot in the chest and killed by a settler outside of the village of As-Sawiya some 15 kilometers (9 miles) south of Yitzhar.

According to Haaretz, Saleh was part of a group harvesting olives outside the village near Nablus when they were attacked by settlers. A number of olive groves were apparently attacked in the area.

The settler who reportedly fired the fatal gunshot was an off-duty IDF soldier, who emerged from the nearby settlement of Rehelim with members of his family shortly before the shooting.

Saleh’s death is the latest in a series of settler attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank since the October 7 massacres by Hamas in southern Israel in which some 1,400 people were killed and at least 230 were taken captive, sparking an ongoing war in the Gaza Strip.

On Sunday, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan called out the “totally unacceptable” uptick in settler violence since the outbreak of the Gaza war and said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “has a responsibility to rein in the settlers.”

“This is an ongoing challenge. We expect over time to see the Israeli government step up on this. We expect accountability for extremist settlers who engage in this kind of violence,” Sullivan told CNN.

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