Three left-wing Israeli activists — young communist Yahli Chilik, anti-occupation activist Matan Kadish, and conscientious objectors’ support Mesarvot network member Yasmin Eran-Vardy — were arrested by Israel police on Wednesday night in the village of A-Tuwani in the South Hebron Hills.
A settler from nearby Ma’on claimed he was assaulted by Palestinians and testified that the Israeli activists who were present at the scene did not intervene. Hours after the incident took place, the activists were summoned to provide testimony at the police station in Kiryat Arba. After refusing to cooperate with the police interrogation, the activists became suspects and were arrested.
Yahli Chilik during in demonstration in solidarity with Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem (Photo: Zo Haderech)
Following the incident, the police raided the home of a Palestinian family in A-Tuwani where the activists had been staying. The police proceeded to confiscate computers, camera phones, and a car. The police did not have a warrant and most of the equipment that was confiscated was not suspected of belonging to the activists under arrest.
The incident began on Wednesday morning when a settler was jogging from the nearby settlement of Ma’on, toward the edge of A-Tuwani in the occupied Palestinian Territories. There he was stopped by a number of Palestinian residents who allegedly assaulted him. Israeli peace activists who have been permanently staying in the area due to increased settler and military violence were also present at the time. The police arrived after Palestinian residents from a nearby village called them upon seeing the settler jogging near A-Tuwani.
“It is clear that this arrest is an attempt to inflate accusations in order to intimidate and deter activists, to prevent them from continuing their important activities,” attorney Riham Nasra told +972 Magazine. “They were turned into suspects only because they did not cooperate with the investigators’ attempts to indict them. From the hearing it is clear that the activists were never suspected of involvement in the attack. Their arrest is part of the attempts to keep the activists out of the South Hebron Hills, where they expose the atrocities of occupation and human rights violations.”
Last week, Israeli police in Jerusalem also repeatedly raided and searched an apartment whose residences are left-wing activists. The police claimed that one of the tenants was suspected of spray-painting graffiti in support of the Palestinian struggle against occupation and specifically the #SaveMassaferYatta campaign. The first raid, which occurred last Wednesday night, happened after the detectives received a report from Jerusalemites who claimed to see one of the tenants, Haley Firkser, spraying protest signs in downtown Jerusalem in support of the Palestinian residents of the South Hebron Hills.