Israel charges right-wing activists with tracking IDF in West Bank
Jerusalem Prosecutor's Office says 5 defendants used military sources, were in possession of classified maps in order to disrupt IDF operations against illegal West Bank outposts.
The Jerusalem District Prosecutor's Office submitted a severe indictment against five right-wing extremists on Sunday, charging them with monitoring the movements of army forces in the West Bank, possession of classified military material and orchestrating an attack by activists on an Israel Defense Forces base.
Last week, Haaretz reported that Israel was considering charging the right-wing extremists with espionage over their actions to monitor and disrupt IDF operations in the West Bank, a week after they were apprehended following a joint operation by Israel Police and Shin Bet security forces.
Five of those arrested – Akiva Hacohen, Elchanan Gruner, Yedayia Shoham, Elad Meir, and Yaon Klab – appeared before a Jerusalem magistrate's court last week, where they were remanded for five days, along with another three suspects who have been in custody for the last three weeks.
On Sunday, the Jerusalem District Prosecutor's Office filed an official indictment against Hacohen and Meir, as well as against David Eliyahu, Effi Heikin, and Meir Ettinger.
According to the indictment, the defendants last year took it upon themselves to disrupt army operations geared at dismantling illegal West Bank outposts, with Meir allegedly telling Hacohen that they should operate a telephone-based intelligence center that would collect information on suspicious army movements.
The defendants then allegedly formed an intelligence nerve-center using a pay-as-you-go phone, which was then handed over to several activists in the region. The indictment indicates that the defendants kept "meticulous intelligence reports," classifying some activists as "watchers" and "surveyors," and others as "scouts."
All in all, the defendants allegedly maintained 30 sources, including several active servicemen who provided precise information on the future movements of forces and the exact hours in which they would take place.
In addition, Heikin, Ettinger, and Eliyahu are suspected of holding 11 aerial photographs classified as "secret," which map the geographical surroundings, and West Bank outposts, using military code.
One document seized by security forces and titled "outposts defense program" stated that activists should push for a situation in which "the authorities cannot agree on the evacuation of outposts."
The document urges activists to refuse direct military commands as well as the infiltration of army bases where they would disperse flyers urging soldiers to do the same.
Activists, the document said, are ordered to arrange around "ten teams, each able to gather around 10-15 people, and arrange a march toward a [Palestinian] village or a [military] base, to establish a bond of camaraderie."
Prosecutors said that the activists' organization ultimately led to action on the night of December 12, which news began to stream from multiple sources regarding IDF movements toward the Mitzpe Yitzhar outpost.
All the reports were then allegedly concentrated on a computer chart, with the massive amount of information leading to the organization of a bus full of activists out of Jerusalem's Merkaz Harav yeshiva to disrupt the evacuation.
The bus arrived at Yitzhar and continued to the West Bank settlement of Kdumim. At Kdumim, where a central IDF base is positioned, the bus dropped the activists off. The activists later infiltrated the base. The evacuation of Mitzpe Yitzher planned for later than night was eventually shelved.
Responding in the defendants' name, Hanenu, a right-wing NGO that provides legal representation to right-wing activists, said that the state "was crossing all the lines when it submits an indictment dealing with organizing demonstrations."
"We're turning into Russia during its darker days," Hanenu said, adding that "youths organizing demonstrations are being charged with severe accusations and indictments are submitted against them in the district court. Israel has become a police state for the mind."
On Thursday, GOC Central Command Avi Mizrahi ordered that 12 right-wing activists be notified of their temporary expulsion from the West Bank, for periods ranging from 3 to 9 months.
The military acted on information, according to which the youths were allegedly involved in the planning, direction, and execution of secret violent attacks against Palestinians residents of the West Bank as well as against Israelis security forces.
Sources said the information indicated that the activists actions posed a real threat to human life and a disruption of public order and peace.
Warrants notifying the West Bank activists of their imminent expulsion were handed in an overnight operation at the Yitzhar, Havat Gilad, Elon Moreh, and Ramat Migron settlements.