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Jewish teens arrested over murder of Palestinian woman in stone-throwing attack

Palestinians carry the body of Aisha Rabi, 48, during her funeral in the West Bank village of Biddya, Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018.
AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed
Activists briefed Jewish teens on how to prepare for Shin Bet interrogations day after the deadly attack

Five Jewish teens arrested as part of a major terrorism probe since last week are being held over the murder of a Palestinian woman who died in an October stone-throwing attack in the West Bank.

Aisha Mohammed Rabi, a 48-year-old mother of nine from the nearby village Biddya, was driving with her husband Yacoub and their nine-year-old daughter when Israeli settlers began hurling stones at their vehicle as they drove near a West Bank checkpoint south of Nablus. Rabi was hit in the head and died in hospital shortly after the attack.

Five Israeli teens have been arrested since December 30 as part of a major Jewish terrorism probe in the West Bank, but a gag order on the investigation prevented the publication of details pertaining to the teens' arrest.

The Shin Bet security agency revealed on Sunday that the teens -- all of whom are students from the Pri Ha'aretz yeshiva in Rechalim, near the site of the attack -- were arrested for serious terror offenses including murder.

The Shin Bet said that the morning after the attack a group of far-right activists from the settlement of Yitzhar traveled to Rechalim to brief students of the yeshiva on how to prepare for interrogations by Israeli security agents.

The session, which took place on the shabbat, was expressely authorized by two settler rabbis, according to a report in the Times of Israel.

Further details pertaining to the investigation, including the identity of the suspects, remains subject to gag order.

AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed

Since the teens' arrests, settlers and pro-settler groups have rallied to their support accusing Shin Bet agents of torturing the suspects during interrogations and preventing them from meeting with attorneys. A young man was arrested during a sit-in by dozens of right-wing protesters blocking Jerusalem's iconic 'string bridge' on Sunday.

The right-wing advocacy group Honenu, which is providing legal representation to at least one of the detained teens, confirmed meeting their clients for the first time on Saturday -- a week after their arrest.

The Shin Bet condemned the accusations against it as part of an "ongoing effort by those with an interest in slandering the agency and its employees and delegitimizing its activities."

"This will not deter the Shin Bet from continuing its activity to prevent terrorist acts, whether Jewish or Palestinian, under state values ​​and for the security of the state," it said in a statement on Sunday.

The agency emphasized that all interrogations carried out in this and other Shin Bet investigations are done so according to the law and subject to the supervision of the State Attorney's Office.

"The detainees in [Shin Bet] interrogations receive all the rights they are entitled to under the law. Claims regarding the denial of the rights of the interrogees, contrary to the law, are baseless and their purpose is to divert the discussion from the serious suspicions for which they were detained," the agency said in a statement.

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Israeli law allows for the detention of terror suspects without an attorney visit for up to 21 days, subject to a court appeal.

It also allows for the Shin Bet to apply some physical duress -- such as tying hands and feet and forced kneeling or sustained back-bending -- during so-called "necessary interrogations" in which there is a risk of an imminent threat.

The Shin Bet said that over the course of the year it has uncovered and foiled hundreds of terrorist attacks throughout the West Bank, including Jewish-perpetrated terror attacks.

The Shin Bet has warned of a growing threat of Jewish extremism, saying in recent years that they were currently investigating an 'anti-Zionist organization' with a vision of "overthrowing the government of Israel through violent means (including the murder of Palestinians), starting a rebellion in order to crown a king, undermining relations between Israel and other countries, kicking out non-Jews and harming minorities."

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