Although several of the arrested suspects’ identities, as well as other details, are still under a court-imposed gag order, Israel Security Agency broke up a cell of Jewish extremists who attacked Palestinians in 2015.
By Ido Ben-Porat
The Shin Bet security service announced it broke up a “Jewish terror” cell active in the Gush Talmonim area in southeastern Samaria.
According to the Shin Bet, the suspects in custody carried out unspecified attacks against Palestinian Arab targets during the latter half of 2015.
The security agency said intelligence gathered in the aftermath of the attacks suggested the existence of a terror cell active in the Jewish village of Nahliel in the Binyamin Region of Samaria, to the north of Jerusalem.
A joint operation was launched between the Shin Bet and Israel Police Nationalistic Crimes Division, which resulted in the arrest of six suspects, who admitted under interrogation to a string of attacks, including attempted attacks against Palestinian homes, assaulting individual Arabs, arson and vandalism against Palestinian-owned cars.
The suspects also admitted to mimicking Palestinian rock-throwing attacks, in hurling rocks from a moving car into incoming Palestinian traffic, among other terrorist activity.
“The reenactments (of the crimes) performed in the field, and the admissions under interrogation uncovered a violent extremist organization, which systematically harmed Palestinians and their property with full knowledge of the possibility of loss of human life,” the Shin Bet said in a statement.
The statement further noted that the extremists conducted their attacks :even after the (deadly) results of the Duma arson,” and were even inspired by that attack.
The suspected cell members have been named as:
- Pinhas Shendorfi, 22, a resident of Kiryat Arba near Hevron
- Itamar Ben Aharon, 20, a resident of Nahaliel in Samaria
- Michael Kaplan, 20, of Nahaliel
- “MH”, a minor, also of Nahaliel
- “BS”, a minor, of Nahaliel
- An unnamed IDF soldier from Nahaliel
Several of the suspects’ identities, as well as other details of the case, are under a court-imposed gag order.
Among the attacks the cell members admitted to was the assault in June 2015 of a Palestinian farmer, in which the victim was beaten with sticks and sprayed with pepper spray, as well as a firebomb attack on a home in the Palestinian Arab village of Mazar’a Kabalia in November of the same year.
In a chilling echo of the Duma attack – which security services say was also the work of Jewish extremists – the firebomb was hurled into the house at night while the family slept. One of the firebombs bounced off the window and failed to penetrate the home, preventing a potential tragedy.
The attackers sprayed the words “revenge”, “death to the Arabs” and “Jews, awaken” on the door of the home, indicating the attack may have been intended as revenge for Arab terrorism.
During December, the cell threw a CS gas grenade into a home in the Palestinian Arab village of Bitilu, in revenge for the arrest of the suspected Jewish terrorists behind the Duma attack.
In that incident, the father of the family awoke from the noise, and experienced difficulty breathing and irritation to his eyes. He immediately evacuated his wife and infant son from the house – his alertness and quick reactions likely preventing more severe casualties. The attackers spray painted the words “Revenge – regards from the prisoners of Zion” on the wall of the house, in reference for the detained Duma suspects.
The cell members also admitted to torching a number of Palestinian cars over the past few years, including the arson of a car in Bitilu in October 2015, and another car previously in the same village in July 2014.
Indictments are to be filed against the suspects on a number of serious terrorism charges over the coming days.
According to the Shin Bet, the cell was connected to the same collective of several dozen extremists involved or connected to the Duma arson. Known as the “Revolt”, the group is not believed to be a centralized organization but a number of independent cells inspired by a fringe extremist ideology which calls for the overthrow of the State of Israel and the imposition of a Jewish Kingdom.
“From the intelligence material we gathered a connection was established between the network in Nahaliel and the members of the right-wing ‘Revolt’ network.,” the Shin Bet asserted.
The cell was broken up “after many months of undercover work and efforts,” it added.
Meanwhile Lod District Court has ordered the release to house arrest of two Jewish activists, who were recently detained under suspicion of committing unspecified “nationalistic crimes” against Arabs. It is still unclear whether the case is connected to the terror cell.
The pair were arrested two days ago as part of an ongoing case. Another five Jewish activists are currently being held by police, as yet without any charges, and have been denied legal council.
Attorney Adi Kedar of the Honenu legal rights NGO which is representing the detainees, responded to the court’s decision Wednesday morning. He noted that his clients did not have prior criminal records and that the alleged incidents in question had occurred many years ago – raising questions about the police’s sudden heavy-handed interest in the case.
“We view with great severity the fact that the investigative unit brought two young suspects suspects without criminal records to the court – and (all) this in connection to old incidents.”
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