Soldier, civilian charged with terror offenses over West Bank rioting

Yedidya Siani, 22, accused of assault on Palestinian home containing mother, four children; David Oved, 30, indicted over vandalism at mosque where he allegedly defaced Quran books

Illustrative: Screenshot from a video of settlers firing at the West Bank village of Umm Safa on June 24, 2023. (Twitter video screenshot: Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Illustrative: Screenshot from a video of settlers firing at the West Bank village of Umm Safa on June 24, 2023. (Twitter video screenshot: Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Two Israelis, one of them an off-duty soldier, were charged with terror offenses Wednesday relating to rioting last month by hundreds of settlers and their supporters as they rampaged through Palestinian West Bank communities in the wake of a deadly terror attack.

The accused are Yedidya Siani, 22, and David Oved, 30. Oved is from the hardline West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, according to Hebrew media reports that did not give Siani’s place of residence. Siani is a soldier in the IDF.

Previous reports had said that two off-duty soldiers had been arrested over the rioting.

The incitements came following a joint investigation by the Israel Police and Shin Bet security service.

Siani was charged with an act of terror under aggravated circumstances, racially motivated assault that caused injury, and racially motivated rioting and racially motivated vandalism for his part in riots by Jewish extremists in the Palestinian village of Umm Safa, which lies north Ramallah.

According to his indictment, filed at the Jerusalem District Court, Siani was one of a gang of masked rioters who attacked the village three weeks ago. He threw stones at Palestinian residents and caused damage to property, prosecutors said. Then, along with other rioters, he allegedly threw stones at a home. A Palestinian woman and her four children were inside at the time.

The rioters smashed open the door to the home with an ax and metal clubs and broke in, the indictment said. The mother hid her children in a cupboard and the bathroom, then hid herself in a side room. After the rioters left, Siani set fire to an upholstered chair that was outside the building and then moved it to the doorway, blocking the exit for those inside. As a result, two of the children suffered respiratory difficulties due to smoke inhalation and were taken to hospital for treatment and released on the same day, prosecutors said.

Siani then went on to throw more stones at another home in the village.

An attorney from the Honenu legal aid organization, which provides legal assistance to right-wing activists and Jewish extremists, said Siani denies all connection to the incident and that he has been wrongly identified as one of the perpetrators.

Oved was indicted for a terrorist act of rioting resulting in damage, a terrorist act of particular damage and a terrorist act insulting a religion.

He is accused of breaking into a mosque in the village of Urif and defacing Quran books. Prosecutors accuse him of acting out of national religious motives or ideology with the aim of instilling fear or panic in the public, while seriously harming religious items.

According to the indictment filed at the Central District Court, Oved arrived in the village with other rioters who have not been identified. The rioters began to damage and burn items in an outdoor area, then entered the mosque and destroyed furniture, throwing holy books on the floor and breaking windows. Oved took a number of Quran books outside the mosque, tore pages from them, and threw them on the ground, prosecutors say.

Prosecutors asked that both Oved and Siani be held until the end of proceedings.

Attorney Nati Rom of Honenu, representing Oved, complained that his client suffered “emotional and physical abuse” during his investigation by the Shin Bet.

The attorney also said he had not yet received the indictment.

“It is unfortunate to see that the prosecutor’s office and the Shin Bet, who fought to maintain a gag order on the investigation of my client, want to leak the indictment for media purposes,” he said in a statement.

In the wake of a deadly Palestinian terror attack on June 20, in which four Israelis were gunned down by Hamas-affiliated terrorists, hundreds of settlers rampaged in Palestinian towns and villages for five days, setting fire to homes and cars, and even opening fire in some cases. One Palestinian was killed in unclear circumstances.

The riots have been condemned by politicians, including some from the right-wing coalition, but there has been little clear-cut condemnation from settlement leaders.

The government has pledged to hold those behind the settler rampages accountable. Four Israelis have been held under administrative detention for their involvement. Hundreds were filmed taking part in the attacks.

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