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Israelis suspected of killing Palestinian woman released to house arrest

Aisha al-Rabi, a 47-year-old Palestinian mother-of-seven, was killed in October of a fatal head wound from a rock thrown at her car near Nablus
Aisha al-Rabi was killed in a settlers attack on her car in October near Nablus in the West Bank (Screengrab)

An Israeli court released to house arrest on Thursday four Jewish settlers suspected of killing a Palestinian woman in October in the occupied West Bank, only a few days after their arrest last week.

The detention of the fifth suspect was extended until Thursday.

The detainees "are suspected of grave terrorist offences including murder", the Shin Bet intelligence service said in a statement after a court order limiting media coverage of the 30 December arrests was lifted.

Israeli investigations into "Jewish terrorism" - as such cases are often referred to by Israeli media - have seen outbreaks of support for the alleged attackers from politicians and the media.

Ayelet Shaked, Israel's Justice Minister, talked on the phone with the mother of one of the Israeli suspects arrested in the killing of Aisha al-Rabi, telling her to “stay strong".

Al-Rabi, a 47-year-old Palestinian mother of seven, suffered a fatal head wound from a rock thrown at her car near the Palestinian city of Nablus on 12 October.

Her husband Yacoub, who was driving the car at the time, escaped with minor injuries.

“I don’t have any doubt it was the settlers. There were six or seven of them, and it was clear that they were young," Yacoub said.

The West Bank sees regular attacks by settlers, some of whom identify with ultra-nationalist Jewish groups, on Palestinians.

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, more frequently the offences consisted of painting nationalist and anti-Arab or anti-Muslim slogans, damaging homes and cars and cutting down trees belonging to Palestinian farmers.

Such incidents decreased sharply in 2016 and 2017 from previous years, with the decline attributed to the response of Israeli authorities after the firebombing of a home in the West Bank village of Duma, which killed three members of the Dawabshe family, including a 10-month-old baby.

Despite that, Israel has approved a major expansion of settler homes in the West Bank over the last year, with almost 4,000 new units approved for construction.

There are some 600,000 settlers living in the occupied territories, which the UN and the international community have said in numerous resolutions are in violation of international law.