Two suspects in West Bank stone-throwing attack on Palestinians released

Judge says adult and minor were likely arrested over their ‘appearance’; Tuesday’s assault in the South Hebron Hills left a dozen wounded, including a 3-year-old boy

Masked settlers near the Palestinian hamlet of al-Mufaqara in the South Hebron Hills, on Tuesday, September 28, 2021. (Courtesy)
Masked settlers near the Palestinian hamlet of al-Mufaqara in the South Hebron Hills, on Tuesday, September 28, 2021. (Courtesy)

Two Jewish suspects arrested over a stone-throwing assault on a Palestinian village in the southern West Bank earlier this week that left more than a dozen wounded were released Friday.

The two, an adult and a minor, detained on Thursday, were the fifth and sixth suspects taken for questioning over their alleged participation in the attack on Tuesday.

But on Friday morning, they were released with no restrictions by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.

“The request for the detention against them in the first place was discomforting,” justice Havi Tucker said according to Kan news. She added that it was likely they were arrested over their “appearance.”

Nati Rom of the Honenu legal aid organization, representing the detainees, said that “again the court confirms what we have been saying, that these are false arrests, only over their appearance.” He also charged the police with not investigating stone-throwing crimes committed by “anarchist left-wing groups” and Palestinians.

Another minor, accused of assaulting soldiers, though not participating in the attack against the Palestinians, had his remand extended until Sunday.

On Tuesday afternoon, dozens of masked Israelis threw stones at Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills. The rocks smashed cars and injured at least 12 Palestinians, including a three-year-old, Palestinian and Israeli witnesses said.

Mohammad Bakr Hussein, 3, allegedly wounded by stones thrown by Israeli settlers in the South Hebron Hills, on Tuesday, September 28, 2021. (Courtesy)

Some Palestinians threw stones back at the settlers as well, leading to clashes between the two sides, witnesses said. Three Israelis were injured as well, according to Hebrew media reports.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid condemned the incident as terrorism and called for justice to be carried out.

“This violent incident is horrific and it is terror,” Lapid tweeted Wednesday evening. “This isn’t the Israeli way and it isn’t the Jewish way. This is a violent and dangerous fringe and we have a responsibility to bring them to justice.”

In videos from the scene, Israeli settlers can be seen breaking Palestinian car windows and hurling stones at Palestinian homes. The confrontations took place near the small Palestinian shepherding village of al-Mufaqara, a cluster of homes that straddles two illegal Israeli West Bank outposts, Avigayil and Havat Maon.

The United States, European Union, and the United Nations condemned the violence, which the UN labeled “an attack on Palestinian civilians.”

“Settler attacks on Palestinians must stop. Israel as the occupying power must ensure public order and the wellbeing of the occupied population as well as promptly investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of such attacks,” the EU’s representative office to the Palestinians said in a statement.

Smashed windows and a flipped-over car, in what Palestinians say was an assault by dozens of masked settlers from a nearby Israeli outpost, on Tuesday, September 28, 2021, near the South Hebron Hills. (Courtesy)

Assault and vandalism by settlers against Palestinians and Israeli security forces in the West Bank are commonly referred to as “price tag” attacks. Perpetrators say that they are retaliation for Palestinian violence or government policies seen as hostile to the settler movement.

Israeli authorities rarely arrest Jewish perpetrators in such attacks, making Wednesday’s and Thursday’s arrests an unusual step. Rights groups lament, however, that convictions are even more unusual than arrests, and the vast majority of charges in such attacks are dropped.

On Tuesday, a Palestinian and an Israeli settler were arrested by Israel Police officers. According to a police spokesperson, the Palestinian is suspected of attacking a soldier and violating a military order. The Israeli, a Havat Maon resident, is believed to have thrown stones and disobeyed soldiers’ instructions, the spokesperson said.

Palestinian witnesses said that the Israeli military fired tear gas and stun grenades at them, but not the settlers. The army declined to respond to the allegations.

The injured toddler, Mohammad Bakr Hussein, was allegedly struck in the head by a rock hurled by a settler as he slept in his house in al-Mufaqara. Hussein was evacuated to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba in moderate condition, a hospital spokesperson said.

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