BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces have detained 18 Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem and West Bank for being in a WhatsApp group with a Palestinian who was killed by Israeli forces on Monday
after allegedly carrying out a stabbing attack.
Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri said in a statement on Sunday that the detained were all members of a group called “Road to heaven” on the messaging application, which she said was used to share religious messages.
Al-Samri implied in her statement that Ibrahim Mahmoud Matar, the slain Jerusalemite youth, had been influenced by the WhatsApp group to carry out the alleged attack, and added that 10 of the 18 had their detention extended to Monday.
However, Matar’s family has insisted that the 25-year-old blacksmith was “executed in cold blood”
and was not committing an attack at the time of his death.
Since a wave of unrest began in October 2015, which has left some 260 Palestinians and 40 Israelis killed, rights groups have disputed Israel's version of events in a number of cases, denouncing what they have termed as a "shoot-to-kill" policy against Palestinians who did not constitute a threat at the time of their death, or who could have been subdued in a non-lethal manner -- amid a backdrop of impunity for Israeli forces who have committed the killings.
Israel's response to attacks have meanwhile be denounced as "collective punishment" and illegal under international law.