JERUSALEM — Three Israeli adolescents from a West Bank settlement were arrested Sunday in connection with a recent firebombing of a Palestinian taxi, Israeli police said, adding fuel to a debate in Israel about ethnic prejudice among youths.
The suspects, all age 12 or 13, were to appear before a Jerusalem court Sunday evening, police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said. The attack, which injured six Palestinians, took place hours before several Palestinian youths were beaten by a mob in central Jerusalem. Police arrested seven Israeli teenagers, the youngest 13, in connection with that attack, which witnesses described as a near-lynching.
Both incidents were denounced as “terrorist attacks” by Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon, who said they “constitute first and foremost an educational and moral failure.”
The youths arrested Sunday are all from the small settlement of Bat Ayin, which sits atop a hill not far from the road where the firebombing took place on Aug. 16. Rosenfeld said police are still investigating the suspects’ motives, but security officials said shortly after the attack that they suspected Jewish extremists.
Yair Goldsmith, the head of the Bat Ayin local committee, declined to comment when reached Sunday night.
Human rights organizations and the United Nations report a rising number of crimes by radical Jewish settlers against Palestinians and their property in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, which both Arabs and Jews claim as rightfully theirs. Extremist settlers have claimed responsibility for several of those attacks, as well as recent assaults on the Israeli military, as part of a so-called “price-tag” campaign of retaliation against Israeli policies and Palestinian violence.
Settlers rarely face prosecution for such crimes, human rights activists say.
The firebombing caused the Palestinian taxi to burst into flames, leaving the four adults and two children inside with burns, some severe. Five of the victims remained hospitalized late last week, and one, the father of the children, in intensive care.
Osama Shakarneh, the council head in Nahalin, the Palestinian village where the victims are from, expressed doubt Sunday night about whether the Israeli police had arrested all the perpetrators, or whether they would be punished.
“We have to wait,” he said. “I don’t have much faith in the Israeli judicial system. This could be just a public relations stunt.”
Samuel Sockol contributed to this report.