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Friday, February 2, 2007

Prosecution: Soldiers must detain settlers harassing Palestinians

Prosecution: Soldiers must detain settlers harassing Palestinians

Following incident caught on video in which soldiers failed to interfere while female settler harassed Palestinian neighbor in Hebron, State Prosecutor's office rules: Soldiers must block violence towards people, property and alert police
Aviram Zino Published:  02.02.07, 01:34

When a soldier witnesses settler violence towards Palestinians or their property, he must detain the suspects and alert the police or Border Guard, Deputy State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan declared Thursday.

In a letter to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Nitzan addressed the recent incident in the West Bank exposed by Ynet in which Hebron settlers harassed their Palestinian neighbors and soldiers failed to interfere.

After two videos recording incidents of settler harassment were published on Ynet, the question arose as to what degree of involvement should be required of soldiers who witness such disturbances.
The letter told the civil rights groups that all the relevant officials had met at the Deputy State Prosecutor's office to discuss the problem.
Nitzan wrote that the officials concluded that soldiers must detain suspects until police arrived, rather than rely on identifying the suspects later.

The letter noted that in the course of 2005, Hebron District Police dealt with 152 complaints against settlers for violence towards Palestinians. Indictments were filed in 39 of the cases. During 2006, 155 complaints were recorded and 81 indictments were filed.
According to the Judea Division's commanding officer and police reports, there was a significant decrease in the number of disturbances in Hebron, Attorney Nitzan wrote. In the past six months there have been no serious incidents in the area, he said.
Nitzan attributed the decrease in violent incidents to improved deployment of law enforcement authorities in Hebron. An important tactic, according to Nitzan, was the deployment of special Border Guard patrol unit in the area to back up police forces.

Regarding minors, who are frequently involved in harassing Palestinian residents, Nitzan wrote: "There has been a significant decrease in incidents involving minors. In 2006, 16 complaints were filed against minors. In three of the incidents, the identity of the suspects is known, and their names and details of the incident were transferred to regional authorities."

Participants in the meeting stressed that it must be made clear to Israeli settlers that "there will no tolerance" towards such behavior and offenders would be held culpable, the letter noted.

Security forces were recently ordered to patrol the area more frequently, it said.

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