An indictment hearing was held at the Lod District Court for memebers of a suspected Jewish terror cell, April 25, 2016.
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI)
A minor was charged with manslaughter on Thursday for the alleged killing of a Palestinian woman in October, in the most severe act of alleged Jewish terrorism in recent years.
The Central District Attorney’s Office filed the indictment in the Lod District Court, ending weeks of speculation since the minor was arrested in late December over suspicion that he was connected to the rock attack that killed Aysha Rabi, a mother of eight in her late 40s, as she was riding in a car driven by her husband near the Tapuah junction.
On Wednesday, it was revealed that the rock which killed Rabi contained the minor’s DNA, although his identity remains under gag order.
Despite what appears to be strong evidence of the minor’s involvement in the killing, the manslaughter charge and the delay in filing the indictment indicate that the path to a conviction may be difficult.
Honenu lawyer Adi Keidar implied that even the DNA evidence could be attacked in court.
A spokesman for Honenu said that there was no other evidence connecting the minor to the incident, and that the DNA evidence was weak compared to standard DNA evidence, as it was found on a moving object – the rock – as opposed to on a stationary object, like a wall.
This meant that the DNA could have come from a variety of sources, while the rock may have been moved, he continued.
In addition, the spokesman said the DNA was of a low resolution. In other words, while hi-resolution DNA evidence can flag a specific person, in this case the evidence could point to a number of people.
Finally, he said that “fresh” DNA evidence is the best kind, meaning it was recently found on the object. In this case, it was not fresh.
Furthermore, the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court said on Wednesday that the minor had provided an alibi this week after refusing to speak to the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) for the past three weeks.
His three-week-long silence followed by his sudden readiness to rebut the DNA evidence caused the filing of the indictment to be delayed by several days.
From the start, there was testimony from the Palestinian side that Jewish rock throwers had been involved.
According to the indictment, on the evening of October 12, the minor and some friends from the Yeshivat Pri Ha’aretz high school walked to the top of a hill, which was only meters from Route 60.
The minor held a rock weighing nearly two kilograms, aiming to hit vehicles being driven by Arabs.
Rabi and her family were driving on the road at a speed of over 100 kilometers per hour. As the car approached, the minor saw that the car was driven by Palestinians because of its license plate. The minor threw the rock towards the front of the car with the intention to harm those in the vehicle. The rock hit Rabi in the head, and the blow was fatal.
Rabi’s husband maintained control of the car despite the attack, potentially saving his life and that of his young daughter, and drove to the nearest Palestinian hospital. Rabi’s killing set off a chain of retaliatory attacks by Palestinians.
The prosecution has requested that the minor be kept in custody until the end of the trial.
Four other minors were previously arrested by the Shin Bet, although they were released weeks ago.
Even with the filing of the indictment against the main suspect, the Justice Ministry has refused to comment on what charges the four minors might face. This has stoked speculation that either they may not be charged, or may only face very minor charges.
Aysha Rabi’s husband, Yakoub, who was driving the car, said that the decision to charge only one teenager was insufficient. “They need to bring all the Jewish settlers who were with the main suspect to trial,” he said. “We believe that there were at least four settlers who were involved in this crime.”
He said that since the attack, he has been afraid to travel on West Bank roads at night. He also called for an international inquiry into the case. “How can we feel safe when the settlers who attacked us are free?”
On Thursday, the Shin Bet in a statement called the killing “full-fledged terrorism.”
The statement alleged that there were attempts to obstruct the investigation of the killing and to spread lies about the agency.
Moreover, the Shin Bet more broadly accused the indicted minor and some unspecified others, possibly including the other four minors originally arrested, of being affiliated with radical Jewish groups seeking to overthrow Israeli democracy and establish a new Jewish theocracy.
The case has reanimated the debate over the Shin Bet’s aggressive handling of Jews accused of terrorism. Some have said they should be treated the same as Palestinian terrorists, while others have said that the agency violated the minors’ rights. As the investigation dragged on, Israel came under criticism that it does not probe suspicions of Jewish terrorism as seriously as Palestinian ones.
Khaled Abu Toameh contributed to this report.