Settler teen indicted for pepper spraying Arab bus driver

Bat Ayin resident, 16, allegedly asked driver if he was Arab before assaulting him outside settlement

Illustrative: A tour bus with an advertisement encouraging tourists to travel to the West Bank settlement bloc of Gush Etzion, January 6, 2015. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)
Illustrative: A tour bus with an advertisement encouraging tourists to travel to the West Bank settlement bloc of Gush Etzion, January 6, 2015. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

A teenager from the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin has been charged with assaulting an Arab bus driver with pepper spray, the courts said Thursday.

According to the indictment, which was filed with the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Juvenile Court on Monday, the teenager, along with another suspect, boarded a parked bus outside Bat Ayin on August 16 armed with pepper spray in order to attack an Arab bus driver.

After boarding the bus, the teenager asked the driver to roll down the window, intending to attack him with pepper spray. The driver refused.

The 16-year-old then asked the driver what time the bus would be departing, before heading to the front door of the bus with the other suspect.

He then turned to the driver, while concealing the pepper spray behind his back, and asked him if he was Jewish or Arab. After the driver responded that he is Arab, the teenager pepper sprayed him, before running away, according to the indictment.

Despite giving chase, police were initially  unable to apprehend the teenager.

A view of the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

He was later arrested along with another 14-year-old suspect last month while in the middle of another assault on a bus driver using pepper spray.

Police said at the time the two were suspected of attacking a number of bus drivers over the past several months.

Prosecutors on Thursday requested the teenager be held in custody until the end of the legal proceedings or to set conditions limiting his activities.

The teenager, whose name is forbidden from publication because he is a minor, was charged with assault resulting in bodily injury with racist motives.

Honenu, a right-wing legal aid organization defending the suspects, said in a statement last month that the sting operation that led to their arrests was a “provocation.”

Honenu said that three Israeli buses had been parked in the middle of the settlement for an extended period of time in an attempt to draw out the suspects while detectives sat inside, dressed in civilian clothing. It did not say why the presence of the buses was a “provocation” that caused the teens to pepper spray one of the drivers.

Bat Ayin, which is located in the Etzion settlement bloc south of Jerusalem, is home to a staunchly nationalistic community that, as a policy, does not allow Arabs through its gates. Residents have been involved in a number of attacks on Palestinians and their property in the past.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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