Israel has imprisoned two high-profile ultranationalists for six months without charge and arrested additional suspects in West Bank settlement outposts, security authorities have said.
The crackdown on Jewish extremists follows the firebombing of a Palestinian home in the West Bank last month that killed an 18-month-old boy and his father and severely wounded his mother and brother.
Israeli authorities said the arson attack on 31 July was an act of “Jewish terrorism”, and Israel’s security cabinet approved the use of tough measures to combat an increasing problem, including administrative detention, which allows suspects to be held for lengthy periods without charge. Such detentions have been mainly used against Palestinians suspected of involvement in militant groups, but rarely against Israelis.
Meir Ettinger: Far right Jewish activist held over attack in which 18-month-old Palestinian boy was burned alive.
Meir Ettinger, grandson of the late US-born ultranationalist Rabbi Meir Kahane, and Eviatar Slonim, another Jewish extremist, were placed under administrative detention on Sunday for their suspected involvement in an extremist Jewish organisation, the office of Israel’s defence minister said.
The two, who are in their early 20s, were arrested last week. Another suspected Jewish extremist, Mordechai Meyer, was placed under six-month administrative detention last week.
Israeli human rights activists who advocate on behalf of Palestinians, as well as lawyers for the Israeli suspects, criticised the use of such detention orders.
“It is carried out based on an administrative order only, without indictment or trial, and the detainee cannot defend himself against the allegations as the evidence is classified,” human rights group B’Tselem said.
“This measure is dangerous … for the entire legal system and for democracy,” said Aharon Rozeh, a lawyer for Ettinger and Slonim, adding that his clients were innocent.
Israel’s Shin Bet security agency has accused Ettinger of leading an extremist Jewish movement that encouraged attacks on Palestinian property and Christian holy sites, including an arson attack in June on a church near the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel that marks the site of a New Testament story about the miracle of the loaves and fish.
A mourner next to the body of the 18-month-old Palestinian baby who was killed after his family’s house was set on fire in Duma village.
Five young Israelis, including Meyer, were arrested last month in connection with the arson attack.
Israeli authorities also carried out raids on Sunday in two West Bank settlement outposts. Police spokeswoman Luba Samri would not say whether the arrests were linked to the 31 July arson attack on a Palestinian. They were connected to “a number of events that occurred recently” in the West Bank, she said.
Authorities said one of the raided outposts was Adei Ad, close to the Palestinian village of Duma, where the arson attack took place. In January, Jewish settlers near Adei Ad threw stones at US consular vehicles carrying visiting American officials.
Authorities would not name the other outpost raided, but Israeli media identified it as Baladim. Both outposts – small, isolated Jewish settlements built without government authorisation – are located in an area known for its hardline settler population.