JERUSALEM: Israel has arrested five Jewish seminary students in the occupied West Bank in connection with a fatal rock attack on a Palestinian car that killed a woman, the Israeli domestic intelligence service said on Sunday.
The arrests had led to mounting speculation in the Israeli media, but authorities had refused to comment, citing a gag order on details of the case while the investigation continued.
There was also a protest of several hundred people on Saturday night outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence over the detention of the Jewish minors.
A number of suspects had been arrested on Dec. 30, more than two months after Aisha Al-Rabi was killed on Oct. 12, Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security agency said in a statement after a court order limiting media coverage of the Dec. 30 arrests was lifted.
“The suspects were arrested for serious terrorist offenses, including murder,” the Shin Bet statement said.
It added that the stoning took place near the Jewish settlement of Rechalim, close to Rabi’s village of Bidiya in the Israeli-occupied northern West Bank.
A mother of nine, Rabi, 47, suffered a fatal head wound from a rock thrown at her car near the Palestinian city of Nablus on Oct. 12 and died later at a hospital in the city, Palestinian official news agency WAFA reported at the time.
Her husband, who was driving the car at the time, escaped with minor injuries, WAFA said.
Palestinian witnesses and security sources cited by the news agency said the stones were thrown by Israeli settlers.
The Shin Bet did not give the number or ages of suspects held, but said they were members of a Jewish seminary in Rechalim.
Their parents and lawyers have been protesting since the arrests over what they said was their sons’ detention in an undisclosed location without access to lawyers.
Israeli investigations into “Jewish terrorism” — as such cases are often referred to by Israeli media — are highly sensitive.
Israeli authorities have been accused by rights activists of dragging their feet in such cases in comparison to investigations into Palestinian attacks, while far-right Israelis say suspects have undergone coercement and torture.
The Shin Bet said the five detainees, who it did not name, attend a seminary in Rehelim, a neighboring Jewish settlement. They are all under the age of 18 and have not been formally charged.
The Shin Bet said in its statement the detainees had been questioned in accordance with the law.