Settler teens arrested for assaulting Arab bus drivers

Right-wing legal aid group representing the pair says sting operation that led to their arrest was a ‘provocation’

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

View of the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin (photo credit: Gershon Elinson/Flash90)
View of the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin (photo credit: Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Police on Wednesday arrested a pair of teens from a settlement south of Jerusalem who are suspected of assaulting Israeli-Arab bus drivers over the past several months.

The suspects were caught in the middle of another assault, while attempting to spray a driver with pepper spray, police said in a statement Thursday.

While police requested to have the remands of the 14- and 16-year-old extended for an additional five days, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ruled that they be released to house arrest, in the Etzion bloc settlement of Bat Ayin.

Still, the judge allowed police to hold them for another day so they could appeal the decision at the district court.

A statement from Honenu, a right-wing legal aid organization defending the suspects, referred to the sting operation that led to their arrests as a “provocation.”

“Instead of eradicating terrorism on the roads of Judea and Samaria, the police are busy with provocations,” the statement said, referring to the West Bank by its biblical name.

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.

The statement did not explain why the presence of the buses caused the teens to pepper spray one of the drivers.

Bat Ayin 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.

Stuart Winer contributed to this report.

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