Suspect in Killing of Israeli Teen Hospitalized After Shin Bet Interrogations

His attorneys claim he was healthy when he was arrested and his condition is now critical

Israeli army forces canvas the scene of a terror attack in the West Bank that claimed the life of a 17-year-old girl, August 24, 2019.
IDF Spokesperson's Unit

The head of the Palestinian cell responsible for the terror attack which claimed the life of 17-year-old Rina Shnerb in August has been hospitalized in critical condition after undergoing interrogations with Israel's Shin Bet security service.

According to one source, 44-year-old Samer Mina Salim Arbid was first arrested two weeks ago under suspicion of additional crimes, but had to be released because his detention could not be extended. He was then re-arrested early Wednesday morning based on new intelligence that he held explosives. He has thus far been barred from meeting with lawyers, his legal counsel says, and the details of his case are under gag order.   

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Tensions have arisen in the defense establishment around Arbid's interrogation and hospitalization. His attorneys said that he was healthy when he entered police custody, but police notified them he had been transferred to the hospital without specifying the reasons.

Regarding his hospitalization, The Shin Bet said released a statement Saturday evening saying: "During the investigation of the head of the terror cell responsible for the attack on the Ein Buvin spring that killed Rina Shnerb, the investigator reported that he did not feel well. According to procedure, he was transferred to the hospital for medical examinations and treatment. No other details can be provided."

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel called for an immediate investigation into the Shin Bet's interrogation of Arbid. "Israel's moral character can be observed from the basement of the Shin Bet's interrogation," the head of the association's legal department, attorney Oded Feller, said. "And in the darkness of the rooms we cannot forget the necessity of controlling our urges." He added, "Figures of the law are not authorized to torture detainees, no matter the severity of the suspicions against them. Cruel and inhumane means of interrogation are categorically forbidden."       

Hamas also responded to news of Arbid's hospitalization. "The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine cell gave a ringing slap to the face of Israel's security infrastructure. Israel bears responsibility for the condition of the detainee Samer Arbid," said a statement from the organization. "Resistance forces will continue the fight, and the flames of resistance will grow despite the occupation and security coordination" between the Palestinian authority and Israel, the statement continued.

A man wearing a shirt with the portrait of jailed PFLP leader Ahmed Saadat throws a stone during clashes after the funeral of Naseem Abu Roumi, 14, September 21, 2019
AFP

Rina Shnerb was killed near the West Bank settlement of Dolev by an explosive device that was detonated as she was hiking along the Ein Buvin spring in August. Her father Eytan and her brother Dvir were wounded moderately and seriously, but survived.

The Shin Bet announced earlier Saturday that it had arrested the four Palestinian members of the cell behind the attack. They are members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and are suspected of carrying out other attacks in the West Bank. 

The members of the PFLP cell, from left: Samar Mina Salim Arbid, Qassem Abdul Kreim Rajah Sabli, Yazen Hassin Hosnei Majmas and Nizam Sami Yousef Ulad Mahmoud.

The PFLP said Sunday that Israel had arrested dozens of their activists in different locations throughout the West Bank overnight. The organization added that they would not allow the wave of arrests to stop their activities.

"We are committed to the path of resistance and it will increase untill the Palestinian volcano erupts in the face of the occupation and the settlers," the statement said.

Arbid is known to be a senior member of the PFLP in Ramallah, and was detained several times in the past over his involvement in terror activities, especially during the second Intifada. He was wanted by Israel for several years and was at helm of the group. According to Shin Bet, he prepared the explosive device and detonated it once he saw the Shnerb family arriving at the spring. 

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The suspects were arrested during a joint operation carried out by the Israel Defense Forces, Shin Bet, the Israel Police and Border Police forces.

The explosive materials were made by Qassem Abdul Kreim Rajah Sabli, a 25-year-old resident of the West Bank village of Kobar, who has been arrested for terror activities in the past, the Shin Bet said. He helped build the bomb and was involved in detonating it, they added. The third suspect was 25-year-old Yazen Hassin Hosnei Majmas of Ramallah, who also has a history of arrest for involvement in terror and, the Shin Bet says, and was a "full partner in planning the attack and carrying it out."  

The four are members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and had planned other attacks in the area, including shootings and a kidnapping, the Shin Bet stated.

"During the interrogation, another device in possession of the group was uncovered and detonated at the scene by security forces," a Shin Bet statement read. "The interrogation is still underway."

Another member of the cell has been named as Nizam Sami Yousef Ulad Mahmoud. Aged 21, he is a resident of the West Bank town of Birzeit and an active member of the PFLP group at Birzeit University, Shin Bet said. 

In recent years, the PFLP has kept relatively quiet, and violent attacks against Israelis are not often staged by the group. August's attack could mark its attempt to re-launch militant activities in the West Bank.

Reporting by Jack Khoury contributed to this article