Palestinian Arson Suspect Released After Explaining He Was Burning Trash

An Israeli military court in the West Bank ordered the release of Jawad Ali Katosh, who said he put out the fire he had started a few dozen meters from his house.

Arson suspect Katosh as seen trying to set fire to brush near the West Bank town of Battir on Saturday, November 26, 2016.
Israel Nature and Parks Authority

A Palestinian who was arrested on suspicion of politically motivated arson near the West Bank village of Battir was released Thursday after five days in custody, at the request of the police.

An Israeli military court in the West Bank ordered the release of Jawad Ali Katosh, who said he had set fire to weeds a few dozen meters from his house in order to burn trash. Afterwards, he put out the fire, he said. The police would not confirm his statement, despite the existence of a video clip documenting his moves.

The police told the court they were still looking into the suspicions against Katosh, but the release request suggests they do not suspect a political motive.

Katosh’s attorneys, Gabi Lasky and Nati Ramati, said they were not allowed to meet their client, who had been interrogated by the Shin Bet for several days before being handed over to the police.

Several other detainees who were arrested on suspicion of arson have been released in recent days. The security forces refuse to disclose the exact number of people they arrested, but at least 12 people were held in Shin Bet facilities. Five have since been released.

The Israeli police in the West Bank held nine suspects in custody and released all but three. The police say all three are involved in the same arson incident in the West Bank. The remaining fires that broke out in the West Bank in the past two weeks, especially the big one in the settlement Halamish, are still being investigated, but no arrests have been reported.

The Jerusalem Police arrested two individuals Thursday, on suspicion of trying to light a fire near Atarot.

The Northern District Police are holding five arson suspects in custody, but none of the incidents appears to have been politically motivated. Three of the detainees, residents of Deir Hanna, are suspected of setting fire to a grove near their village. Two others from Sajur, one of them a minor, are suspected of lighting a fire between the Druze communities Sajur and Beit Jann.

The Haifa Police have released from custody four of six minors from Jedida, all of whom had been arrested on suspicion of politically-motivated arson in Ahihood forest.

Police told a Youth Court hearing on extending the custody of the two remaining minors that they intended pressing charges against them. The judge said the two pose no danger and the arson was not politically motivated. He also said the suspects didn’t use flammable material and were minors with no criminal record.

An Umm al-Fahm resident was indicted Thursday for arson – not politically motivated – in three places in the town. On Wednesday, the Haifa Police arrested two suspects of arson in a grove near Mei Ami.