Five Israeli men and one male juvenile, all of them Jews, were charged on Sunday in connection to a series of brutal assaults on Arab men in the southern Israeli city of Be'er Sheva. Police said suspects told detectives the assaults — at least six separate incidents between December 2016 and April 6, 2017 — were carried out with the aim of stopping their targets from pursuing romantic relationships with Jewish women.
The defendants, aged between 17 and 20, allegedly used knives, clubs, metal bars and other weapons in the assaults. Two of the defendants are soldiers. Three of the defendants were charged with terrorism offenses, in addition to aggravated assault.
According to the indictment, which was issued by the Southern District of the State Prosecutor's Office, before each attack the defendants confirmed that their targets were Arab. In some cases the alleged perpetrators concealed their faces in order to avoid being identified.
In the most serious of the attacks, Raz Ben-Shalom Amitzur, 19, is accused of stabbing an Arab man as he sat in a car with a Jewish woman.
According to the indictment, after approaching the couple and ascertaining that the man was Arab and the woman Jewish, Amitzur pulled out a knife and stabbed the man several times in the back, chest, abdomen and arm, injuring the man's kidney.
Police said they determined in their investigation and interviews with the suspects that the purpose of the assaults was "to prevent the 'assimilation' of Jews and Arabs in Be'er Sheva," and that some of the defendants had viewed videos produced by the right-wing group Lehava that focused on "saving Jewish women who are married to Arabs." One of the defendants said he supported the organization but was not an active member.
Amitzur, Koren Elkaym and Tamir Bartal, identified in the indictment as the main suspects in the case, were charged in Be'er Sheva District Court with terrorism, in addition to several counts of aggravated assault.
The other three suspects were indicted in the Be'er Sheva's Magistrate's Court. They were identified as Sharon Dazanshvilli, Reuven Koshvili and a juvenile male who was not named. They were charged in the beating of an Arab man, an attack that also allegedly involved the three main suspects.
Lawyers for some of the defendants say they were prevented from meeting with their clients for a number of days after their arrest. According to the lawyers, the suspects were subjected to "significant emotional duress" and remained handcuffed for hours, their eyes covered, for part of their questioning.
Some of the lawyers say their clients were subjected to "difficult and long" questioning. "The basic rights of those arrested are blocked by the iron doors of the Shin Bet cells," said Avichai Hajbi, a lawyer for Honenu, a nonprofit organization that defends Jews who are accused of assaulting Arabs and Palestinians. Hajbi claimed he was blocked by members of the security forces from meeting with one of the suspects.
Defense lawyers also claimed that one of the suspects tried to commit suicide while he was in police custody. It seems that when it comes to Jews suspected of quarreling with Arabs their rights are forgotten, trampled on and we are informed of new detention laws," said Sima Cohav, a lawyer for one of the defendants.