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Israeli teen charged with manslaughter over Palestinian woman's killing

Court hears the 16-year-old's DNA was found on the rock that struck Aisha al-Rabi on the head as she was in her car
Aisha Rabi, 48, was fatally struck with a large rock in the head (Twitter/Screengrab)

Israeli prosecutors have charged an Israeli 16-year-old with manslaughter after he allegedly threw a stone at a car in the occupied West Bank in October, killing a Palestinian mother of seven.

Aisha al-Rabi, 48, was in the car with her husband Yaqoub and their nine-year-old daughter. They were on their way home to the Nablus-area village of Biddya, close to the illegal Israeli settlement of Rechalim, when their vehicle was stoned on 12 October.

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

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

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The charges came a day after the court was told that the DNA of the suspect was found on the rock that caused Rabi's death.

According to Thursday's indictment, the suspect and other students stood on a hill near Route 60 on the day of the attack.

The suspect "held a rock weighing close to two kilograms, with the intention of using it to harm Arab car passengers, based out of an ideological motive of racism and hostility toward Arabs everywhere," the indictment read, referring to Palestinians as "Arabs", as is common in Israel.

The suspect threw the rock when he noticed a vehicle with a Palestinian license plate, according to the indictment.

"As the car approached at high speed, the suspect threw the rock forcefully and directly at the windshield, with the aim of harming the car's passengers and with disregard for the possibility of causing their death," it said.

The rock smashed the windshield of the car, which was travelling at 100km per hour, and according to the indictment "directly and forcefully struck Rabi's head, all in front of her family". 

No additional indictments in the case are expected, according to sources close to the investigation, Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported.

A gag order imposed on the case prevents the publication of the suspect's name.

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 Israeli 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.

Violence by Jewish settlers and right-wing activists against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank reportedly 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-Palestinian 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.

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