Settler teen convicted of terror offenses for attacks on Palestinians

Suspect found guilty of hurling smoke grenades and Molotov cocktails into populated homes, stoning and torching vehicles and brutally assaulting a farmer, between 2013 and 2016

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Palestinians gather next to a house sprayed with graffiti reading in Hebrew: 'revenge' and 'hello from the prisoners of Zion,' in the West Bank village of Beitillu on December 22, 2015.(AFP PHOTO/ABBAS MOMANI)
Palestinians gather next to a house sprayed with graffiti reading in Hebrew: 'revenge' and 'hello from the prisoners of Zion,' in the West Bank village of Beitillu on December 22, 2015.(AFP PHOTO/ABBAS MOMANI)

The Lod District Attorney’s Office announced on Tuesday that it had convicted a teenage member of a Jewish terror cell responsible for targeting Palestinians and their property in the central West Bank from 2013 to 2016.

The suspect, whose identity was not released as he was a minor at the time of the attacks, operated in the group with three brothers, who were convicted in March as part of a plea agreement.

Deeming his actions to be particularly reprehensible, prosecutors tried and convicted the latest suspect separately, without offering a plea deal. The conviction was handed down last week, but was only made public by the court Tuesday.

Over his involvement in nine different attacks, the court on Thursday found the 19-year-old guilty of 25 charges, including membership in a terror organization, racially motivated aggravated assault, racially motivated property destruction, stone throwing at vehicles and arson.

This was just the second time that a Jewish suspect had ever been convicted of membership in a terror organization over the perpetration of so-called price tag attacks — assaults carried out by far-right Jewish extremists against Palestinians and their property ostensibly in retaliation for actions and policies against the settlement enterprise.

One of the three brothers, a teen, was also convicted of membership in a terror organization in March.

The three brothers, from the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Nahliel, were sentenced last year to five, four and-a-half and two and-a-half years respectively.

The teen suspect convicted last week, who hails from a different settlement in the central West Bank, is expected to receive a heftier punishment. Sentencing is not expected until June.

A Palestinian police member inspects the damage inside a burned-out house belonging to a key witness to an arson attack last year by Jewish extremists that killed a Palestinian family, in the West Bank village of Duma, after fire broke out in the home in the early hours of March 20, 2016. (AFP/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)

According to the ruling, the suspect and his co-conspirators “sought, among other things, to instill fear and panic among the Palestinian residents of Judea and Samaria [West Bank], and to convey a message to the security forces and to the public in Israel regarding security issues.”

In the middle of the night in December 2015, the suspect and another descended on the village of Beitillu. There, they shattered a window of a home they knew to be occupied on the outskirts of the central West Bank village and hurled a pair of smoke grenades inside before fleeing the scene. According to the ruling, the Palestinian father heard the glass shatter, managed to wake up his wife and nine-month old baby and got them out of the home before it filled entirely with smoke. On the walls of a house nearby the attackers sprayed “Revenge, regards from the prisoners of Zion.”

In a second incident a month earlier, the two Israeli teens threw Molotov cocktails into a house in the village of Mazra’a al-Qibliya while a Palestinian family was sleeping inside. One of the firebombs bounced off the window of the home, thus a disaster was averted. On the walls of the home they sprayed “Revenge,” “Death to the Arabs,” and “Jews wake up.”

A month earlier, the suspect along with three other members of the terror cell hurled stones at Palestinian vehicles near Ramallah and torched another in Beitillu as retaliation for the murder of the Israeli couple Na’ama and Eitam Henkin.

In June 2015, the suspect along with five others brutally assaulted a Palestinian farmer on the outskirts of the village of Ras Karkar.

Illustrative: A member of the “hilltop youth” rides a donkey at an illegal outpost in the northern West Bank. (Credit: Zman Emet, Kan 11)

The Shin Bet security service arrested the terror cell in April 2016, but conditionally released the teens pending sentencing.

“The affair illustrates that the law enforcement authorities are working with full determination to eliminate acts of violence that constitute acts of terrorism on a clearly nationalistic background,” said attorneys Dan Cohen and Reut Aviri, who handled the case on behalf of the Central District Attorney’s Office.

Hay Haber from the Honenu legal aid organization representing the suspect rejected the notion that his client was a member of a terror organization. “This is a baseless accusation filled with demagoguery. To put my client in the same class as a Hamas fighter is not just erroneous at the legal level, but at the factual level as well.”

Haber said his client has expressed remorse for his actions and was being unfairly used as a “pilot case” in the court’s attempt to demonstrate that it is cracking down on cases of violence perpetrated by Jews.

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