The Israel Police recommended to a court Wednesday that the three hikers who were arrested Friday for firing at a group of Arab attackers be released. However, at the same time, police arrested four protesters who were demonstrating in favor of the hikers outside the court.
Arutz Sheva journalist Hezki Ezra reported that a violent scuffle broke out between police and the demonstrators, one of whom was Nadia Matar, Co-chair and Co-founder of the "Women in Green" Land of Israel activist organization. Ezra himself was roughed up by a policeman, as were other reporters.
A fourth member of the hiker group - a soldier in mandatory military service - was released Tuesday. He, too, was suspected of opening fire on the Arab assailants.
Honenu, an NGO that defends the rights of Jewish prisoners arrested for alleged crimes of a nationalist nature, said that the hikers should never have been arrested: "All of the people arrested are without a criminal past and some have families," it stated. "Although there is no doubt that the group of hikers was attacked, the police insisted upon interrogating the hikers on suspicion of murder, even though the offense requires intent to kill, and although the police do not have access to the body of the person allegedly killed, and despite the lack of proof that the Arab allegedly killed was hit by the hikers' gunfire."
'Laws of Sodom'
MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) called Wednesday morning for an investigation of the "the elements who chose to arrest the victims and not their murderous attackers. It is unacceptable that the Judea and Samaria police have yet to arrest any of the Arab aggressors. This, unfortunately, is a pattern of behavior taken from biblical Sodom, in which the victims had to compensate their attackers."
Nationalists gathered in protest Wednesday morning outside the Jerusalem Magistrates' Court at the Russian Compound, where the three Jews who fired in self defense Friday were to be arraigned.
The protesting groups say they were standing up "for the elementary right to self-defense - and to demand that those improperly detained be freed immediately."
The Jews reportedly opened fire at an Arab mob who had ambushed them with live fire, firecrackers and rocks as they were hiking in the Etzion Bloc in Judea. The hikers were part of a larger group of about 150 hikers. Arab sources later claimed that an Arab was killed but a body has yet to be produced. Arab claims of deaths have proven to be fabricated on numerous occasions in the past.
The hikers reported that Arab terrorists spotted them and began firing upon the group and hurling rocks, explosive caps and firecrackers. "Due to the presence of senior citizens, evacuation was so slow that defensive measures were required," Jewish activists said. "But when army and police forces arrived, all hikers carrying weapons were arrested, imprisoned and charged with homicide - before it was even established that any of the attackers had been killed, before a dead body was even produced, and before even a single Arab attacker or onlooker had been interrogated."
The hiking group was carrying on a tradition that began three years ago, when two soldiers, David Rubin and Achikam Amichai, were murdered by terrorists while hiking. Their friends swore to honor their memories by continuing to hike in Judea and Samaria, in what are known as the "David and Achikam hikes." On a weekly basis, thousands of participants from cities, towns and communities throughout Israel hike through the paths, hills and ravines of the biblical heartland, guided and protected by ex-soldiers who know the terrain and are described as "responsible and cautious" by the organizers.