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Israeli minor to be charged over killing of Palestinian woman

Aisha al-Rabi was in her car with her husband and two of their daughters area when they were stoned by settlers in October
Rabi, 48, was struck with a large rock in the head, causing her to lose consciousness (Twitter/screengrab)

An Israeli minor is to be charged in connection with the killing of a Palestinian mother-of-seven several months ago in the occupied West Bank, Israeli police have said.

Aisha al-Rabi, 48, was in the car with her husband Yaqoub and two of her daughters on their way back home in the Nablus area village of Biddya near the illegal Israeli settlement of Rechalim, when their vehicle was stoned by settlers on 12 October.

The attackers, who encroached on the right shoulder of the road, ambushed Rabi's car, hurling large stones at the front windshield and passenger side window, where she was sitting.

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Rabi sustained a fatal wound as she was struck with a large rock on the right side of her head.

Five pupils from the Pri Haaretz religious seminary in Rechalim were arrested over the attack last month, four of whom were released to house arrest.

The fifth suspect held in custody would be charged over the attack "in the next few days", Israeli police said in a statement.

Support for suspects

The suspects have received an outpouring of support in Israel from politicians and right-wing activists following their arrests.

Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked first spoke over the phone with the mother of one of the teenagers. She then met with the boys' families on 7 January to hear their concerns.

About 1,000 Israelis, including right-wing politicians and leaders of the settlement movement, protested outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem earlier this month in support of the suspects, Israeli Channel 10 reported.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that violence by Jewish settlers and right-wing activists against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank tripled last year, with 482 such incidents reported by mid-December, compared to 140 for 2017.

In addition to beating up and throwing stones at Palestinians, the most frequent offences consisted of spraying nationalist and anti-Arab or anti-Muslim slogans, damaging homes and cars and cutting down trees belonging to Palestinian farmers.

Rights activists have accused Israeli authorities of dragging their feet in probes into such incidents compared with those into Palestinian attacks - and of using a select number of cases as "fig leaves" to obfuscate a widespread lack of accountability.

Double standards

Earlier this month, Palestinians whose children had committed crimes against Israelis spoke to Middle East Eye about cases of Israeli minors who murdered or attacked Palestinians and got off with much less time than their children.

Ayham Sabbah, 17, was sentenced last month to 35 years in prison for stabbing and killing an Israeli settler in an occupied West Bank supermarket three years ago.

As Sabbah was only 14 at the time of the murder, his family is convinced that the court delayed his sentencing for three years to justify handing him a longer prison sentence.

"We know that racism is one of the deciding factors in these situations," Bassem Sabbah, Ayham's father, told MEE.

"If an Israeli settler child killed a Palestinian, do you think they would suffer the same fate as my son? Absolutely not," he said.

Last year, Israel's High Court released an Israeli settler who was involved in the 2015 firebombing of a Palestinian home in the West Bank village of Duma, in which a Palestinian baby and his parents died.

The court released the settler after he spent two years in prison under the pretext that he was a minor at the time of the high-profile attack. He was ordered to house arrest.

An estimated 450,000 illegal Jewish settlers live in the occupied West Bank, with more than 2.5 million Palestinians.