Murder, terrorism, and racism charges were filed Thursday against seven men accused of stoning Yigal Yehoshua to death in the central Israeli city of Lod last month, during widespread clashes between Jews Arabs in the country.
Five of those indicted at the Central District Court are Arab Israelis and the other two are Palestinians who were illegally staying in Israel at the time.
They are Lod residents Yusef al-Qadhayim, 21, Walid al-Qadhayim, 25, Karim Bahlul, 18, Iyad Marahla, 20, Haled Hassouna, 51, and West Bank residents Ahad Danun, 25, and Kamel Deif Alla, 21.
They were charged with murder under aggravated circumstances in a collaborated act of terror, collaborating to throw stones in an act of terror against a vehicle, and deliberately damaging a vehicle for racist motives.
In addition, six were charged with collaborating to obstruct justice for trying, among other acts, to erase footage of the incident caught on security cameras.
Prosecutors said the defendants acted “out of a nationalist-ideological motives and with the aim of instilling fear and panic in the public and when there was real risk of serious injury to a person’s body.”
They asked that the defendants be held until the end of proceedings.
The deadly attack that killed Yehoshua, a 56-year-old resident of Lod, occurred amid heavy rioting throughout the country that saw multiple cases of assault against Jewish Israelis by Arab Israelis and vice versa.
According to the indictment, on May 11 Arab youths arrived at an industrial area in the north of Lod, where they lit fires and blocked roads causing traffic to slow down.
When they identified the occupants of passing cars as Jewish they hurled stones at them, prosecutors said. The defendants attacked Yehoshua’s car and one stone came through the window, hitting him in the head and causing him serious injury.
Yehoshua parked his car for a few moments near the site of the attack. He then drove the rest of the way to the parking lot beneath his home, where he crashed his car into another vehicle while trying to park, apparently because of his injuries. He was rushed to the hospital and died six days later.
Some of the defendants also stoned Jewish cars two days after the incident as unrest in the city continued, prosecutors said.
Nearly all of the defendants confessed to the crimes during questioning by the Shin Bet security agency, and played out the sequence of events at the scene, Haaretz reported.
They were identified by security cameras in the area, while a location system in Yehoshua’s car provided accurate information as to the time and place of the incident. Though police have the stone that hit Yehoshua, there is no DNA evidence matching it to the defendants, according to the report.
The families of some of the defendants claim the confessions came after hours of interrogation during which the suspects were tied to their chairs, and that they were not involved in the killing, the report said.
Earlier this week police revealed that eight people had been arrested in connection with Yehoshua’s death.
The suspects were arrested over the past several weeks in a joint operation by the Shin Bet and Israel Police, according to a statement from the two organizations at the time.
The eighth man, Muhammad Hassouna, 33, was not charged on Thursday.
Video footage distributed by the Israel Police (above) showed the attack as it unfolded, with Yehoshua’s car slowing down because of the flaming roadblocks, then being hit by rocks and bricks. He could then be seen driving away, pulling into his parking lot and hitting the parked car. Additional footage showed some of the suspects apparently attempting to erase the security camera recordings from that night.
Some of Yehoshua’s organs were later used in life-saving transplants. His heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys were all donated to patients in need. One of his kidneys went to an Arab Israeli woman, Randa Aweis, a 58-year-old Christian from Jerusalem.
Thursday also saw prosecutors file indictments against three suspects accused of attacking Mor Janashvili and causing him serious injuries during rioting in the northern city of Acre, also on May 12.
Lacusi Abbas was charged with attempted murder in an act of terror, terrorism by stoning a vehicle, intentionally damaging a vehicle for racist motives, and rioting.
Adam Bashir was indicted for intentionally causing grievous bodily harm in an act of terror and rioting. Bilal Hiluani was charged with rioting.
According to the incitement, masked youths set up roadblocks in the city and threw stones at a police water cannon vehicle that arrived to disperse them.
As Janashvili drove past they hurled stones at his vehicle, hitting it and smashing the windshield. Janashvili lost control and crashed into a wall, also hitting an Arab youth who was standing there.
Hiluani spurred on the mob by shouting to them that the Arab youth who was hit by the car had died, although in fact he was alive and was able to stand up with the assistance of others, prosecutors say.
Janashvili exited the vehicle but before he could escape was beaten by the mob. The attackers only stopped when a local sheikh arrived and told them to stop. He was saved by an Arab nurse who was at the scene. The two later had an emotional reunion in the hospital.
Janashvili’s car was set alight and destroyed.
Last month saw massive riots break out in many so-called mixed Israeli cities, home to large numbers of both Arabs and Jews, during an 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Though not unprecedented, the internecine violence was some of the worst in Israel’s history, bringing to the surface long-simmering conflicts between Arab and Jewish Israelis.