Seven Israeli Jews were indicted on Monday in the Lod District Court for belonging to a Jewish terrorist cell whose crimes against Palestinians included arson, throwing gas grenades and violent attacks dating back to 2009.
The Central District Attorney’s Office filed the indictment which accused the seven of an array of violent crimes, weapons possession, membership in an illegal organization and other nationalistic crimes directed at Palestinians and their property mostly near the Gush Talmonim area near Ramallah in the West Bank.
The Justice Ministry is keeping the full indictment under gag order, since two minors and a soldier are involved, but it distributed a detailed summary of the indictment.
According to the indictment, the purpose of the campaign was to “spread fear and panic among Palestinian inhabitants in Judea and Samaria, on one hand, and on the other hand, to send a message to the security services and the public in the State of Israel.”
Though the gag order has obscured some details of the case, it appeared that most of the crimes occurred in the 2009-2013 period – though several notable violent crimes occurred in 2015, and the soldier and another defendant illegally fired shots from his gun in 2016.
Last Wednesday, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) announced that over the month of April it had broken up a Jewish terrorist cell, including one IDF soldier and two minors, that carried out a series of seven attacks on Palestinians in the Gush Telmonim area.
Some of the defendants were named as Pinhas Shandorfi, 22, of Kiryat Arba, Itamar Ben Aharon, 20, of Jerusalem, Shneor Dana, 28, of Ma’aleh Ephraim, and Michael Kaplan, 20, of Beit Shemesh, with the names of the soldier, 19, and the two minors, 16 and 17, still under gag order.
“The intelligence we gathered around these attacks pointed to the existence of a Jewish terrorist organization in Nahliel, in western Binyamin,” the Shin Bet stated. It added that, following a “lengthy intelligence effort, the Shin Bet exposed the organization.”
The investigation began in the beginning of April, involving teams from the Shin Bet and the nationalist crimes division of the Judea and Samaria district police.
Suspects who were taken into custody confessed to carrying out widespread terrorist activities, which included throwing a gas grenade into an inhabited Palestinian home, throwing firebombs into an uninhabited Palestinian home, throwing rocks at Palestinian vehicles, attacking Arabs, arson, and vandalizing Palestinian vehicles, the Shin Bet added. Suspects were led to the scenes of their crimes and reenacted them for investigators.
The Shin Bet described the organization as “extreme and violent, which systematically harmed Palestinians and their property, with full knowledge that human lives could be harmed, even after the result of the [fatal] arson attack on a home in Duma.”
The Duma attack acted as an “inspiration,” the Shin Bet said.
According to the indictment, the minors, the soldier, Kaplan and Ben Aharon were behind an attack on a 71-year-old Palestinian farmer with sticks and tear gas last summer. Shandorfi and some other defendants were accused of a separate attack against another Palestinian near Nahaliel.
The two minors were behind the firebombing of a home in the village of Mazra Kabaliya on the night of November 20 at night, when family members were asleep inside, and the spray-painting of the words “death to Arabs” and “Jews wake up” on their walls.
“The firebomb miraculously bounced off the wall of the home, averting a major disaster,” the Shin Bet said. A second firebomb hit a plastic table near the entrance to the house causing it to be scorched, but not harming any of the inhabitants, said the indictment.
On December 22 at around 1:30 a.m., the two minors allegedly threw IDF gas grenades at night at a home in the village of Bitilu, to “avenge” the arrests of suspects for the Duma arson attack. The two carefully cleaned their fingerprints from the grenades before tossing them.
In that attack, “the father of the family woke up from the noise and felt difficulty breathing, as well as stinging eyes.”
He immediately evacuated his wife and baby son from the home. His quick response and awareness prevented serious harm to the baby,” the Shin Bet said.
Several Palestinian cars were torched in recent years by the minors, the soldier, Shandorfi and Kaplan.
The minors, Shandorfi and the soldier carried out rock throwing attacks on Palestinian cars using Dana’s car.
The Gush Telmonim cell joins the “rebellion” movement that was active in recent years, the Shin Bet said. Both acted out of an “extremist ideology and a readiness to harm Palestinians, to the point of murdering them.”
Intelligence shows a link between the Nahliel cell and members of the Samaria hilltop youth far-right activists, who are members of the “rebellion” movement, the Shin Bet added, saying it had prevented severe acts of violence as part of a wider effort to thwart Jewish terrorism over the past year.