Suspects were reportedly planning additional attacks

Two suspects in Huwara rampage, one a minor, sent to administrative detention

Move comes after court ordered release of all detainees; Ben Gvir blasts Gallant for ‘anti-democratic’ order under which individuals can be held without trial for long periods

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Palestinians inspect a damaged house and scorched cars in the town of Huwara, near the West Bank city of Nablus, February 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)
Palestinians inspect a damaged house and scorched cars in the town of Huwara, near the West Bank city of Nablus, February 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

A Jerusalem court on Thursday ordered police to release all of the suspects detained over the violent settler riots in the West Bank town of Huwara earlier this week, but the Defense Ministry signed off on an administrative detention order for two of them, including a minor.

According to the Honenu legal aid organization representing the suspects, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ordered police to free all seven suspects who were being held following their arrest Wednesday, due to a lack of evidence of their involvement in the rioting.

Shortly after the court ordered their release, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant signed administrative detention orders against two of the suspects following recommendations by the Shin Bet security agency.

Administrative detention is a controversial practice whereby individuals can be held without charge practically indefinitely, and are not granted access to the evidence against them.

While it is rarely used against Jewish suspects, nearly 1,000 Palestinians are currently held in custody under the practice.

The orders against the pair, 29-year-old David Chai Chasdai, and a 17-year-old minor, are currently valid for four months, until July 1.

Israeli soldiers stand next to a damaged Palestinian building in the town of Huwara, near the West Bank city of Nablus, Monday, Feb. 27, 2023.(AP/Ohad Zwigenberg)

A senior security official speaking to Channel 12 news claimed the pair were “planning and had carried out operations against IDF forces. [They] are extremely dangerous.” According to Haaretz, a senior security source, possibly the same one, said they were involved in initiating the riots.

On Sunday, hundreds of settler extremists rioted in the Palestinian town of Huwara in retribution for a terror attack that killed two Israelis earlier in the day in the same town. Radical settlers burned homes, cars, and storefronts, and assaulted Palestinians, leading to scores of injuries and the death of a Palestinian man in unclear circumstances.

On Wednesday, eight suspects were detained over the rioting. One was released the same day, while the seven others were held until Thursday afternoon, when the court ordered their release — among them the two who were sent to administrative detention.

Police said the suspects arrested Wednesday were suspected of “rioting, setting fire to vehicles and buildings, assaulting Palestinians, causing damage to property in Huwara.”

But Honenu said no evidence was presented against them, leading the court to order their release.

An additional eight Israeli suspects detained on the night of the rioting have also been released, three of them to house arrest, according to law enforcement officials.

The decision to send two of the suspects to administrative detention was condemned by National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and other members of his party, as well as left-wing activists.

“I will contact Gallant and the prime minister this evening and demand clarification on this anti-democratic decision,” Ben Gvir said in a statement.

Settlers pray the evening service, as cars and homes torched by settlers burn in the West Bank town of Huwara on February 26, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Former Meretz MK Moss Raz tweeted that “administrative detention is detention without trial and is always unacceptable even when it is used to incarcerate suspects and maybe even perpetrators of a pogrom.”

Raz added: “All administrative detainees, Jews and Palestinians alike, must stand trial or be released.”

The HaMoked rights group on Wednesday said it had received new data from the Israel Prison Service showing that Israel had added another 50 administrative detainees over the past month.

The data showed that 967 Palestinians were being held in administrative detention.

“This figure is outrageous. This is a mass detention without trial, with no effective judicial review, as the detentions are based exclusively on secret evidence,” said Jessica Montell, HaMoked’s executive director.

Hours after a shooting attack that killed brothers Hallel Yaniv, 21, and Yagel Yaniv, 19, from the settlement of Har Bracha, hundreds of extremist settlers descended on the Palestinian town in the northern West Bank, the site of the terror attack, and carried out what a top general called a “pogrom.”

Security forces failed to contain the violence for hours despite early warnings of a planned violent protest in Huwara. Troops were also preoccupied with searching for the gunman who killed the Israeli brothers, as well as dealing with settlers who had defiantly returned to the evacuated Evyatar outpost.

Brothers Hallel (left) and Yagel Yaniv, who were killed in a terror attack in the West Bank town of Huwara on February 26, 2023. (Courtesy)

Military chief Herzi Halevi said he regretted that the army was unable to contain the violence, and vowed to “thoroughly investigate” the riots.

“The grave events of lawlessness in Huwara after the severe attack will be thoroughly investigated,” Halevi said on Tuesday.

Speaking at a Navy officers’ graduation ceremony Wednesday, Halevi said “the IDF prevents many terror attacks every week. Unfortunately, we were unable to prevent the last ones. We also should have prevented what developed following the attack in Huwara.”

Police said they had no information about officers being involved in the killing of a Palestinian man, Sameh Aqtash, in nearby Za’tara during the rioting on Sunday night. A military official told The Times of Israel that Israeli soldiers were not involved in the shooting that killed Aqtash, 37. His family has claimed he was shot by Israeli forces.

Sameh Aqtash, who was killed in the settler rampage of Huwara, on February 27, 2023. (Courtesy)

The attacker who carried out the deadly shooting in Huwara, killing the Yaniv brothers, was believed to be hiding out in one of the Palestinian towns in the Nablus area.

The military has bolstered the West Bank with four additional infantry battalions following the attack and subsequent settler rioting in Huwara.

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