Settler Released Hours After Arrested Over Killing of Palestinian Youth

Suspect denies involvement in last month's shooting of 16-year-old, says police arrested him only after he reported victim had hurled rocks at him.

Israel Police on Sunday arrested a resident of the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, for his alleged involvement in the shooting death of a Palestinian teenager whose body was found near Ramallah two months ago.

The 37-year-old suspect was released without restrictions a few hours after he was detained. Police are currently verifying his version of the story.

Palestinian stone throwers
Emil Salman

The suspect told investigators during questioning that he had indeed had an altercation with the victim, but denied shooting him. He pointed out that he had filed a complaint with the police two months ago, immediately after his car was stoned - allegedly by the victim.

Police narrowed down the settler as a suspect after two months of intensive gathering of evidence. The suspect reportedly possesses a licensed firearm.

The affair began on May 13, when police received reports that two Israelis had been shooting at Palestinian youths near the West Bank city of Ramallah – apparently in response to stones being hurled at an Israeli-owned vehicle traveling on Highway 60.

Palestinian sources reported the next day that 16-year-old Ayser a Zaban, had been killed in the gunfire.

Two Israeli civilians had notified police at around 8 p.m. on the day of the shorring and reported that they had seen three people - one of them armed with a gun - in the area where the stones had been thrown. Forces that arrived at the scene found stones on the ground, but were not able to locate the three men.

A Zaban had been missing for several hours at this point, but his body was only found in the late evening with fatal gunshot wounds in his back. The boy was a resident of a village located between the settlements of Shiloh and Ofra.

The suspect's attorney charged Sunday that his client's name had only come up in the investigation because it was he that reported the stone-throwing to police.