Two settlers charged with terror for attack on Palestinians in Huwara

Two Israeli settlers were charged with terrorism offenses on Thursday for attacking Palestinians in the West Bank town of Huwara with axes and stones earlier this month, law enforcement officials said.

According to the Shin Bet security agency, Hanoch Rabin, 25, from the illegal outpost of Givat Ronen, and Raz Giron, 21, from the hardline Yitzhar settlement, were detained by police on March 13 in connection with the attack a week earlier on March 6 .

During the incident, which was captured by surveillance cameras, several masked settlers were seen attacking the Palestinians and hurling at cars and shop fronts in Huwara.

At one point, one settler, who officials suspect was Rabin, was seen attacking a car with an axe.

The Shin Bet accused Rabin and Giron of being part of a “violent group whose aim is to harm the Palestinians as well as to interfere with the activities of the security forces in dealing with the prevention of Palestinian terror and to maintain public peace in the area.”

Meanwhile on Thursday, the far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir met with the families of three settlers who were in administrative detention, two of them suspected of being involved in a particularly destructive massacre in Huwara last month.

In the February 26 attack, extremist settlers burned houses, cars and storefronts, and attacked Palestinians, leaving scores injured and a Palestinian man dead in unclear circumstances.

Ben Gvir, who was a lawyer before entering the Knesset who represented defendants accused of nationalist and terror crimes, vowed to “redress the injustice” done to them. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s decision to place the two suspects in administrative detention came after recommendations from the Shin Bet security agency, although a court ordered that their detention be reduced.

According to a statement from his office, Ben Gvir said he was in contact with the “relevant officials” and was trying to convince them to release the suspects. “For me, it is democratic to arrest someone and throw him in jail without evidence or trial,” he said.

The controversial practice of administrative detention allows individuals to be held without charge almost indefinitely, and the evidence against them withheld. Israel holds nearly 1,000 Palestinians in administrative detention. Israeli conservatives are in the single digits.

Thursday’s indictment against Rabin and Giron, which includes various terrorism charges, described the attack on a Palestinian family in the car.

The Halifa family, residents of Asira al-Qibliya, located near Huwara, were shopping in a supermarket in the town. While going to their car, the two suspects allegedly arrived in Huwara with other settlers “equipped with axes, hammers, stones and pepper spray, with the aim of carrying out an act of terror against the Palestinians in Huwara with national cause,” read the indictment.

The pair and nearly 10 masked suspects got out of a vehicle and began hurling stones at the family’s car, other nearby cars and at the supermarket, according to the indictment.

Rabin, according to the charge sheet, ran towards the Halifas’ car and hit the rear window with an axe. Giron then threw stones at the back window, and Rabin continued to hit the car with the ax until he broke the back window. He also broke the left side windows of the car, and Giron continued to throw stones at the back of the car.

After breaking the windows, Rabin attacked the person in the driver’s seat with the axe, hitting him in the shoulder, according to the indictment. Giron and other suspects continued to ram the cars, injuring Adris Halifa, 69, who was hit in the head by a stone.

As the Halifa family began to flee, the two and others continued to pelt them with stones, as well as pepper spray into the car through the broken windows, the indictment read.

Prosecutors said the pair and others shouted “Death to Arabs” during the attack, which caused injuries and damage.

Rabin and Giron, who are expected to be held pending legal proceedings, were charged with terror charges of aggravated assault and racially motivated property damage, among other charges.

Huwara is on edge after an unprecedented rampage by settlers on February 26, which came hours after a Palestinian terrorist opened fire on an Israeli vehicle driving through the town, killing two brothers inside.

There have been two other shooting attacks in the town since then; on March 25, two soldiers at a guard post were seriously and moderately injured in a drive-by shooting, and on March 19, an Israeli civilian was seriously injured after a Palestinian gunman opened fire on his car.

Attacks between settlers and Palestinians were again reported in the town on Monday evening and at least six local people were said to have been injured. Both Israeli and Palestinian settlers also reported that their cars were attacked with stones while driving through the main road in the flashpoint of the northern West Bank town.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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