Two Israelis who were part of a group of activists touring the West Bank city of Hebron on Friday were sent to five days' house arrest on Sunday and were ordered not to return to the city for two weeks, after being questioned on suspicion of assault and conduct that could disturb the peace.
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One of the two, a male left-wing activist, was physically attacked on Friday by a soldier in an incident that was caught on film and garnered considerable attention in the media. A third person, a female activist, was ordered not to return to Hebron but was not placed under house arrest. All three had their cellphones confiscated.
Gonen Ben Itzhak, a lawyer who represents the suspect who had been attacked by the soldier said that under questioning his client was told that he had violated an order barring Israelis from entering Area A – the portions of the West Bank where the Palestinian Authority has responsibility for civilian and security control.
According to Ben-Yitzhak, his client told his interrogators that he was not familiar with Hebron and came to the city with a group. It was later claimed that he had tried to escape from detention, but he said that he tried to transfer his backpack to another member of the group and was not trying to flee. He also denied that he attacked the soldier who was filmed assaulting him.
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The male activist suffered a fracture in his face and was treated in the hospital. According to Ben-Yitzhak, his client had been given seven days' sick leave and asked not to appear for questioning on Friday, but his request was refused. He was questioned on Friday after being detained by the soldiers. He was released and then questioned again on Sunday morning.
According to another lawyer, Riham Nassra, the two women are members of Bnei Avraham, a group of religious and ultra-Orthodox activists who hold pro-Palestinian solidarity events and are Sabbath observers. Therefore, Nassra said, they gave short statements to interrogators prior to the onset of Shabbat, after which they were released to their homes. On Sunday, they returned for additional questioning at the request of the police. One of the two was also questioned on Sunday about allegedly violating the military order barring Israelis from Area A and in connection with resisting legal arrest, Nassra said.
“Despite the video clips showing who the attacker was and who was being attacked, the two female activists found themselves under lengthy interrogation,” Nassra told Haaretz. “During the course of the day, the police added allegations with one, single aim – turning the victims into the accused and tarnishing a nonviolent struggle. One of the female activists, who was repeatedly shoved by the soldiers, was sent to five days of house arrest.”
On Saturday, lawyers from the right-wing Honenu legal defense organization, who represent soldiers involved in Friday's confrontation, called for the left-wing activists to be "brought to justice."
A statement from Honenu attorney Adi Keidar said that the “picture that emerges thus far is partial and tendentious. The soldier carried out the arrest of a civilian who, with other people, interfered with operational procedure, attacked and insulted soldiers.”