South Mount Hebron
Photo: Gil Yohanan
IDF assisting in settlers' arrest
Evidence in case against settlers suspected of attacking cops posing as Palestinians indicates Judea Brigade commander supervised over operation

The IDF is cooperating with the police in the battle against settler violence in the West Bank: Evidence submitted to the court in the case against settlers suspected of involvement in the attack on police officers posing as Palestinian shepherds indicates that the army activated a special unit and lookouts to assist police in the settlers' arrest. Prior to the operation the police officers were briefed by senior IDF officers.


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Two of the three defendants in the case – Ilan Vinelda and David Popko - were released to house arrest Thursday evening. The third suspect, Shimon Ben-Gigi, will remain in custody.


During last week's incident, two undercover police officers posing as Palestinian shepherds made their way to the Mount Sinai farm in the south Mount Hebron area, where numerous violent clashes between settlers and Palestinians have taken place as of late. An indictment was filed after the officers claimed that Vinelda, Popko and Ben-Gigi punched them and beat them with clubs, thinking they were Palestinians.


Evidence suggests that the officers received instructions from Colonel Avi Balut, the commander of the Judea Brigade. The evidence further suggests that IDF lookouts were tasked with overseeing the operation and directing the police officers to the farm.


Another Israeli citizen who was involved in the attack and fled the scene was arrested at his home in the Shomron region Thursday evening.


Attorney Aharon Roza of the Honenu organization, who is representing the defendants, said they confronted the officers because they mistook them for Palestinians and believed their lives were in danger. According to him, Ben-Gigi beat the officers in self-defense. The other two defendants did not attack the officers, he said.


The IDF said the Southern Command will "continue cooperating with the various security bodies to maintain security and stability in the region."



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