Two settlers arrested for Purim riots in Huwara, indicted on terrorism charges

A group of settlers allegedly noticed a Palestinian family in a car and began throwing stones and hit one of the occupants of the vehicle with an ax.

 A RESIDENT OF Huwara walks on Monday among cars burnt by settlers avenging the terror attack that claimed the Yaniv brothers a day earlier.  (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
A RESIDENT OF Huwara walks on Monday among cars burnt by settlers avenging the terror attack that claimed the Yaniv brothers a day earlier.
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)

Two Israelis who live in Samaria have been arrested for attacking Palestinians with an ax and stones in Huwara on Purim, the Israel Police and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) said Thursday.

The suspects were identified as Hanoch Rabin, a resident of Givat Ronen, and Raz Giron, a resident of Yitzhar.

An indictment was filed against the two on Thursday, charging them with crimes of conspiracy to commit a terrorist act of aggravated damage and willful damage to a vehicle for racist reasons. They belong to a group that works to harm Palestinians and disrupt Israeli security forces, the police and Shin Bet said.

During the riots on Purim, a group of about 10 Israelis entered Huwara and began attacking Palestinians. In one instance, the group noticed a Palestinian family from Qibliya in a car outside a supermarket and began throwing stones at the car. They also hit the shoulder and hand of one of the occupants with an ax through the window.

During the attack, the Israelis shouted, “Death to Arabs,” according to the indictment.

Huwara, West Bank (credit: ANAN ODEH/CC BY-SA 3.0 ( WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)Huwara, West Bank (credit: ANAN ODEH/CC BY-SA 3.0 ( WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

At least five Palestinians were injured in the Purim riots, including one who was hit in the head by a stone.

About 50 Palestinians in Huwara threw stones at Israeli vehicles driving through the town, damaging at least four of them, Israeli residents from the area reported at the time. No injuries were reported. The settlers only came to the scene after the rocks were thrown, they said.

According to Palestinian reports, settlers shot at a Palestinian family driving in a vehicle through the town. Video footage from the scene showed a bullet hole in the windshield, and another part of it was smashed.

Surveillance camera footage from Huwara showed Palestinians running into a shop before Israelis ran after them, throwing rocks at the shop and at vehicles parked outside. The video showed the settlers surrounding a vehicle with Palestinians inside, smashing some of the windows and attempting to break in before the driver reversed direction and drove away.

Additional video footage from that night reportedly also showed both soldiers and settlers dancing to Purim music in the middle of Huwara around the time of the clashes.

The IDF said at the time that it would investigate the matter of the dancing soldiers, adding that their behavior “does not align with what is expected from soldiers during operational activity.” Soldiers and Border Police officers worked to disperse the clashes and were able to restore order, the IDF said.

Arrests by Shin Bet and Israel Police

Giron and Rabin were arrested a week later.

“This activity leads to unrest and hotheadedness, with a significant risk to the lives of uninvolved passersby, and harms the fabric of life of the residents of Samaria and the West Bank in general,” the Shin Bet said, adding that it “considers these acts, which are carried out from nationalist motives, a danger to the security of the state, and in cooperation with Israel Police and the IDF, it will continue to act to stop them and to bring the full severity of the law to bear against the perpetrators of these acts.”

Honenu attorney Adi Keidar said the right-wing legal aid organization would study the case.

“I am sure that in the end we will understand that the defendants’ connection to the evidence is very weak,” he said.

“It is important to note that these days, the country is boiling; there are many terrorist attacks against Jews in the Huwara area and throughout the country,” Keidar said. “In addition, there is a wave of protests and pogroms throughout the country carried out by left-wing elements, and still the Shin Bet and the Judea and Samaria [police] are busy with one thing – eradicating nationalist crime while trampling on human rights. We hope that the court will give weight to this in its decision.”

Violent weeks in Huwara

A week before the violence on Purim, dozens of homes and vehicles in Huwara were torched by settlers hours after two Israeli brothers, Hallel Menachem Yaniv and Yagel Ya’acov Yaniv, were murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in a shooting attack in the town.

Signs put up in Huwara by settler activists before Purim said, “The intifada is already here,” and “The Jews overcame their enemies,” a quote from the end of the Book of Esther that is read on Purim.

Meanwhile, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir on Thursday met with the families of three Israelis who have been held in administrative detention for months. He promised to work to find a way to have them released.

“Although I am not the defense minister, and administrative detentions are not under my authority, I am constantly talking with the relevant authorities and trying to convince them to find a solution and release the detainees,” Ben-Gvir said. “I will do everything to correct the injustice.”

“In my opinion, it is undemocratic to arrest a person and throw him in jail without evidence and without a trial, and certainly after a court has ordered the release of the suspects and determined that there is no evidence to justify their arrest,” he said.