Shin Bet Claims Jewish Youths Caused Death of Arabs in Stone-Throwing Incident

General view of the Ariel community in the Shomron. (Flash90)

Five Jewish minors from towns in Shomron have been arrested in recent days as the result of an investigation by the Shin Bet security service – and on Sunday the reason for those arrests were permitted for publication. According to the agency, the five were involved in a rock-throwing incident in October that resulted in the death of a Palestinian woman, a resident of the town of Bidiya in central Shomron.

According to the agency, the incident occurred on Oct. 12, 2018. The youths, who are talmidim at Yeshivat Pri Ha’aretz in the Shomron town of Rechelim, next to Ariel, are accused of leaving the yeshiva late Friday night and threw stones at Arab vehicles. They struck a vehicle in which the woman was riding along with her husband. As a result of the attack, the vehicle skidded and overturned, injuring both seriously. The woman, 48, died of her wounds in the hospital.

The Shin Bet added that youths were also involved in a coverup. The next day, on Shabbos morning, the agency claims, a group from the nearby town of Yitzhar – also a religious town – traveled to Rechelim to instruct the youths on what to say when they were arrested, advising them to lie in order not to implicate themselves. The agency did not say if any of these individuals had been arrested, and a gag order is in effect on the identities of all those involved in the incident.

In its statement, the agency slammed protesters who were demanding that the agency allow the youths to meet with attorneys; several of them had been in custody for over a week, and on Motzoei Shabbos they were for the first time allowed to discuss the case with attorneys. “Since the beginning of this matter the Shin Bet has identified an organized and ongoing effort from special interests to ruin the good name of the agency and its workers, and to deligitimize its activities. This effort should be condemned, and it will not prevent the Shin Bet from acting to prevent terror, Palestinian or Jewish. The detainees are getting all the rights they are entitled to.”

Last Tuesday, the Central District Court in Lod threw out of court alleged confessions of one of the detainees. The court said that the detainees had been subjected to “intensive questioning, and treated in an unfair and improper manner.” The individual whose confession was thrown out of court was “pressured in an unreasonable manner, and the fact of his young age was not taken into account by interrogators. In addition, the fact that he was not permitted to meet with an attorney” was a violation of his rights.

Right-wing activist and attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir is representing one of the detainees. In a statement, he said that the timing of the Shin Bet’s revelation “indicates that the case is falling apart. There is no evidence against these kids, so an hour before I and other attorneys were scheduled to go public with the case, they issued their statement to make us look bad.”

Attorney Adi Keidar of the Honenu organization, representing several of the other youths, said that “last night we met with our clients for the first time and we heard about how they were questioned – with methods that no Israeli citizen would agree to for their children. If the Shin Bet wants to present its evidence, we are in favor – we will present our side and let the public judge. If this is not what is called ‘torture,’ I don’t what is.”