Israel's military court releases Palestinians suspected of attacking settlers

Israeli police have made six failed court appeals to extend custody of settler suspect, now some are calling it a distraction.

 Four detained Palestinians, a father and three of his sons, are seen during their military court hearing, August 10, 2023 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Four detained Palestinians, a father and three of his sons, are seen during their military court hearing, August 10, 2023
(photo credit: REUTERS)

A military court released four Palestinian Burka residents – a father and three of his sons – suspected of attacking settlers during clashes Friday on the outskirts of their West Bank village.

The four were suspected of throwing stones, shooting firecrackers, and assaulting Israelis during the clashes. An Israeli, Yehiel Indore, has been accused of fatally shooting a Palestinian man: Qusai Jamal Ma’atan, 19.

Indore, who was hit in the head and underwent surgery for a fractured skull, has said he shot in self-defense, while Palestinians allege that a stone was thrown at him only after Ma’atan was shot.

One of the Palestinian suspects was shot in the leg during the event, which the IDF said began at 7 p.m. but which Palestinians say had started already at 5:30 p.m.

The military judge said that “not enough evidence was presented to support the charges against” the four Palestinians or to support the requested extension of their arrest by another eight days.

 Elisha Yered (credit: CHAIM GOLDBEG/FLASH90)
Elisha Yered (credit: CHAIM GOLDBEG/FLASH90)

The judge did order the four to be confined to the boundaries of their village until Sunday.

Attorney Ismail Tawil, who represented the four Palestinians, told the court that some 50 Israelis participated in the assault against the village. Security forces and settlers have placed the incident some 250 meters outside the village on a hilltop, set back from Route 60, which is also next to the Oz Zion outpost.

“We’re talking about 50 people who attacked the village, including children and the elderly who were under stress in their homes,” Tawil said.

“the ‘ping-pong’ that is being done with the detainees in general and [Yered] in particular should be stopped.”

District Court Judge Tamar Bar-Asher

The attackers had “batons, tear gas, stun grenades, M-16s and guns,” he said, adding that the village residents did their best to defend themselves. He added that the group had advanced two kilometers into the village.

Tawil referenced a video of the attack, which has secretly been shown to the judges. He showed them a picture of the village so that they could compare it to the video and see where the event had taken place.

“Is it logical,” he asked that those arrested would place themselves in a situation where people have been “shot at, beaten and a person died?”

Separately the High Court of Justice on Thursday rejected a police appeal to allow Elisha Yered – a second suspect in Ma’atan’s shooting death – to be placed back into custody.

Police, with the help of the state prosecutor’s office, have turned to the Israeli courts six times in three days in an attempt to keep Yered, 22, in jail.

They have been twice before the High Court, the Jerusalem District Court and the Magistrates Court.

“The State Attorney’s Office and the General Security Service are pursuing Elisha Yered,” charged attorney Avichay Hajbi, who is representing the Jewish suspects in the case on behalf of the right-wing legal defense organization Honenu.

“Such behavior does not befit the authorities in a democratic country,” he said.

Yered was released to house arrest only on Wednesday night, though a magistrate’s court had first issued that ruling on Tuesday. With each appeal, the initial order that he could be freed to house arrest was delayed.

On Wednesday, District Court Judge Tamar Bar-Asher said that “the ‘ping-pong’ that is being done with the detainees in general and [Yered] in particular should be stopped.”

She added that “detainees have rights, even those suspected of serious crimes.”

Police had held Yered in custody since Friday's clash between settlers and Palestinians because he removed the gun from the scene of the shooting.

Indore is still in the hospital, under police custody, until Friday at noon.

The scarcity of concrete evidence regarding the attack has allowed both settlers and the Palestinians to claim victimhood.

Settlers have argued that the incident began when Palestinians attacked a Jewish shepherd herding his flock near Burka on Friday evening. That shepherd called for his friends to help him, including Yered and Indore. The IDF and the Binyamin Regional Council security team didn’t know about the attack until close to 9 p.m.

The case has become a distraction

Police determination to keep Yered behind bars, however, has shifted the focus from the issue of settler and Palestinian violence to legal matters surrounding the case.

Judges adjudicating the case have noted that the evidence presented so far with respect to murder charges does not justify requests to hold the suspects in custody.

Police have presented a secret file from the intelligence services as well as a video, which has been kept from the public.

Ben-Asher said that from the moment the case was sent to her, the police conduct with respect to the case had been “disorganized and unclear.”