Jewish homes in Judea
Jewish homes in JudeaIsrael news photo: Hana Levi Julian

A Jerusalem court has released two of three young men accused of attacking police officers near the town of Susiya in Judea. The officers were dressed as Arab men at the time, in an attempt to lure out Jews in the Hevron region suspected of violence against Arabs.

According to Attorney Aharon Roza, the incident could have ended far more badly than it did. The officers’ behavior could have led to death, he said.

Police made a mistake, he said. “There was misjudgment here on the side of the police, who informed the military but not residents of the town [Susiya]. You have to remember that this is a place where there have been a lot of tragedies, including Palestinian murder of Jews, and the police did not think of the security risk to all of those in the area, including the officers who were there,” he stated.

Roza, of the Honenu legal rights group, is representing the three detainees. The two who were released “had nothing to do with the incident,” he said, and were not near the area when it occurred.

In the incident, officers dressed as Arabs approached the Har Sinai farm, owned by the widow and children of Yair Har-Sinai, who was murdered by Arab terrorists in 2001 a short distance from his home. Four Jewish men from the area went out to speak to them, and a fight broke out.

The officers dressed as Arabs used tasers and tear gas during the fight, while the men coming from Susiya used wooden sticks. One officer was injured in the confrontation. After several minutes, several more officers came out of hiding, surrounded the Jewish men and arrested three of them. The fourth managed to escape, but was arrested Thursday.

If it had been an armed security guard from Susiya who first noticed the apparent infiltrators, rather than youth armed with sticks, “the story would have had a much worse ending,” Roza said.

Community leaders in Judea and Samaria have also warned that the police trick was highly dangerous. Samaria Residents’ Council head Benny Katzover sent a letter to Minister of Internal Security Yitzchak Aharonovich in which he called for firing the commanders who authorized the mission.

“Even someone who is not a security expert can easily picture an entirely possible scenario in which this ended differently, and very badly,” he wrote. “What will happen the next time, when the settlers feel threatened, and hurt an officer? And no less concerning, the knowledge that there are police dressed as Arabs approaching the area could prevent them from taking action in the future, which could endanger them.”

“I don’t understand why you were willing to endanger your officers in order to create suspicion among settlers and wait for them to act in self-defense,” he added. “To what extent has the craving to show ‘results’ and ‘determination’ regarding the settlers driven police commanders out of their minds?”