Daily Israel Report

Watch: Police Use Drones to Pursue Price Tag Suspect

Police release footage from unmanned drone used to monitor 'hilltop youth'; drastic measures draw surprise, mockery.
By Ari Soffer and Yoni Kempinski
First Publish: 5/20/2014, 9:47 PM

Israeli police have released footage from a drone which they say shows a man caught in the act of committing a "price tag" attack.

The footage shows a man, who police identified as Harel Koren - arrested on suspicion of an attack on Arab-owned orchards in March - walking into a field and starting a fire in an apparent arson attack.

Last week it was revealed that police - who have struggled to make progress in their investigation into the "price tag" phenomenon - had resorted to using unmanned drones to monitor suspects.

The revelations were met with a mixture of derision and incredulity, given the fact that the measures amount to using expensive counterterrorism measures to pursuing suspects whose crimes usually amount to little more than petty vandalism.

"Price tagging" refers to incidents of vandalism, arson or other forms of criminal damage by Jewish extremists, usually either in revenge for Arab terrorist attacks or in response to demolitions of Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria by Israeli authorities. 

The phenomenon has been widely condemned by politicians and rabbis across the spectrum.

But attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir, who represents the suspect in the video, noted Friday that the operation is a tremendous waste of State resources. 

"Without making light of the alleged crime, at this rate, a drone will be launched every time a teenager sprays graffiti on a wall," Ben-Gvir fired. "I understand that there is political pressure [at play here], but the police and prosecution must operate as independent systems and allocate resources according to the gravity of the offenses and not by the amount of articles in the media."

A wave of incidents in the run-up to the Pope's visit this coming Saturday - fueled by speculation over a rumored handover of King David's Tomb by the Vatican - has upped political pressure on authorities to crack down on those responsible.