Detectives from the police's nationalistic crimes division in the West Bank noted a surge in nationalistic crimes committed in the past few months by boys aged 14–16 from the Bat Ayin settlement in Gush Etzion.
Detectives in the region have been collaborating with the Shin Bet in carrying out intelligence activities in Bat Ayin for a long time, but the uptick was fairly recent.
The Bat Ayin teenagers, police said, leave their home Saturday mornings for a road Palestinian vehicles are known to take and pelt them with rocks. During one such case from several weeks ago, a 3-year-old Palestinian girl was wounded. In other incidents, Arab bus drivers were assaulted when they ventured into Bat Ayin as part of their jobs' routine.
One of the young men was charged for his participation in one of the incidents, but his trial has yet to commence. According to the indictment, the boy—a 16-year-old minor—turned to an Arab driver who entered the settlement and asked him a question to ascertain whether he was indeed an Arab. When he realized he was, the boy attacked the driver with pepper spray. Following the attack, the bus company terminated its Bat Ayin service for a week.
The defendant's attorney David Halevi, appointed by the Honenu organization, claimed his client was nowhere near the location of the attack and it was merely a case of mistaken identity.
All of the young men arrested over the past few months over involvement in nationalistic attacks were released without limiting conditions.
Despite the recent spate of attacks, the Bat Ayin nationalistic contingent is far from new. The Shin Bet and local police have been keeping close tabs on the settlement for the past six years, but the recent wave of attacks involved a younger generation than those previously picked up by police.
Sources close to the investigation noted this wasn't a case of a true "Jewish Underground" but boys nevertheless engaging in activities "that can easily set the entire region aflame."
Despite intelligence operations, the police also tried contact their families as well as the settlement's leaders in order to rein in the young perpetrators, but to no avail. Moreover, the families side with the teenagers, who claim they are been persecuted.