Three Israelis indicted for assaulting Palestinians during olive harvest

Three Israelis were charged last week with assaulting Palestinians close to the village of Ni’lin in the West Bank during the annual olive harvest, although the Israel Police did not publicize the indictment until Sunday night.

The three alleged assailants– Nuriel Sharabi, 21, a resident of the West Bank settlement of Ganei Modi’in and two minors – were charged with aggravated assault.

According to the indictment, several Palestinians — members of the same extended family — arrived at their land on October 13 to harvest olives. Although they live in Ni’lin, which is in the West Bank but beyond the security fence, their land lies within the security fence.

After receiving the army’s approval, the family — including elderly relatives, women and children — arrived in the area to harvest their olives.

Illustrative photo of Palestinian women picking olives. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Sharabi and the two minors were friends; the two minors had also previously been ordered by the army to cease all contact with one another. Prosecutors contended that the three Israelis, knowing when and where the Palestinians would be in the area, tied shirts over their faces as makeshift masks before attacking them.

“They hurled large stones at the harvesters from two to three meters distance,” striking several Palestinians, according to the indictment. Prosecutors said that one of the stones struck a 71-year-old Palestinian man in the head; the elderly man began to bleed, lost consciousness and required two stitches.

The three Israelis sprayed the harvesters — including young children — with tear gas, threw wooden boards at them and cursed at them in Arabic. One of the Israelis caught a Palestinian youth by the shoulder and attempted to bash his head in with a rock, but the boy managed to escape, according to the indictment.

The two minors were arrested on the day of the attack, and the 21-year-old was arrested the following day before being charged with aggravated assault last week.

“Their actions were conducted with clear coordination and careful premeditation…The defendants threw large stones at short range, in a manner which could seriously wound,” prosecutors contended in a separate court filing.

Israel Defense Forces Col. David Songo told the Knesset during a committee hearing last week that the IDF had recognized 37 “friction incidents” between Israelis and Palestinians during the olive harvest. The Yesh Din rights group, by contrast, reported 42 incidents.

The Knesset Committee on Foreign Affairs and Security hears testimony on attacks on Palestinians during the olive harvest on November 16, 2020 (Credit: Knesset Spokesperson)

The three indictments — which trace back to one incident — are the only ones announced so far. A spokesperson for Israel Police’s West Bank division did not respond to a request for information about any additional indictments.

According to Songo, the IDF recorded 66 such incidents in 2019, meaning that 2020 marked a notable decline.

“The first week in the harvest period had a large number of events, but in the next four weeks saw a decline. During the past week, there was only one incident,” Songo said.

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