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6 Israelis indicted for committing 'racist' attacks against Palestinians

April 23, 2017 5:58 P.M. (Updated: April 23, 2017 8:33 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Six Israelis, including two Israeli soldiers and one minor, have been charged over involvement in committing “racist” attacks targeting Palestinians in recent months, according to an Israeli police spokesperson.

Luba al-Samri said in a written statement that the case was approved for publication after a gag order was lifted by Israeli police and Israel’s security agency the Shin Bet.

She said that “six Jewish suspects” from the city of Beersheba in Israel’s southern Negev region were detained in April over five separate “violent attacks and assaults” that have occurred since December 2016, including a “terrorist stabbing” attack on Feb. 21, 2017.

Amid Israeli police investigations, “equipment” used by the suspects -- which included knives, sticks, and iron rods -- was seized, according to al-Samri, who described the attacks as “racist and nationalistically motivated” and aiming to “prevent Jews and Arabs in Beersheba from coexisting.”

The suspects were allegedly “inspired” by watching videos produced by the extremist right-wing Lehava organization -- “especially one video about saving a Jewish woman from her Arab husband,” al-Samri said. One of the suspects explicitly expressed his support for Lehava and his intentions of joining the group.

Following investigations, charges were filed against the six suspects in an Israeli magistrate’s court for “committing nationalist crimes driven by terrorism and anti-Arab sentiment,” al-Samri concluded.

Israeli news outlet The Jerusalem Post identified three “central” defendants who were indicted in the Beersheba magistrate’s court as Raz Amitzur -- who committed the stabbing attack, Koren Elyakim, and Tamir Bartal. Sharon Dizanshuvili, Reuven Kosshvili, and a minor whose name remained under gag order, were also indicted, and were described in the report as “less central” defendants.

In addition to the stabbing attack, multiple defendants were charged with torching the car of a Palestinian citizen of Israel, and attacking another Palestinian citizen on March 4 at Beersheba’s Park Six, according to The Jerusalem Post.

The suspects also sought out Palestinian citizens of Israel and attempted “to ensure that they were indeed of Arab ethnicity,” according to the report.

The case came as a rare instance of prosecuting Israelis for committing ideologically motivated attacks on Palestinians, as Israel has long been denounced for fostering a “culture of impunity” for Israelis, particularly for Israeli settlers and soldiers who commit unjustified violent acts against Palestinians.

In March, Israeli NGO Yesh Din revealed that Israeli authorities served indictments in only 8.2 percent of cases of Israeli settlers committing anti-Palestinian crimes in the occupied West Bank in the past three years.

Meanwhile, a report recently released by the Arab Center for Social Media Advancement 7amleh documented that slanderous, provocative, and threatening posts made by Israelis against Arabs and Palestinians more than doubled in 2016, reaching 675,000 posts made by 60,000 Hebrew-speaking Facebook users.

According to the study, not a single case has opened against an Israeli for inciting violence against Palestinians, while hundreds of Palestinians have been detained and prosecuted in recent months for allegedly inciting violence against Israel.
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