Yehiel Indore, the prime suspect in the killing on Friday in Samaria of Palestinian Kosai Ma’atan, said on Monday that he had acted in self-defense.
Indore, 28, was hospitalized and underwent surgery for a severe head wound sustained during the confrontation near the town of Burqa that led to the fatal shooting. Indore made his remarks following an improvement in his condition.
He was arrested along with a second suspect, Elisha Yered, 22, who was accused of interfering with a police investigation by taking Indore’s gun back to his home following the shooting.
On Aug. 4, hundreds of Arabs from Burqa confronted a Jewish shepherd grazing his flock near the village.
According to Indore’s attorney, Nati Rom, dozens of Jews arrived at the scene to protect the shepherd.
The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement following the incident that “Verbal confrontations ensued which were followed by the hurling of rocks by both sides, and the firing of fireworks by Palestinians.
“During the confrontation, Israeli civilians fired at the Palestinians. As a result of the confrontation, a Palestinian was killed, four others were injured, and a Palestinian vehicle was found burned. Several Israeli civilians were injured by rocks.”
According to Rom, Indore fired a warning shot but was then surrounded, and only shot to kill after he was struck in the head by a rock.
“Anywhere else in Israel this event would have been defined as foiling an attack,” the attorney added.
Indore and Yered were arrested on Saturday morning. At the request of police, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court on Sunday extended their remand for an additional five days.
Yered has since been released to house arrest as requested by his attorney, the court announced on Tuesday.
On Monday, five Palestinians were arrested in Burqa in connection with the incident. Following their arrest, Indore and Yered’s attorneys turned to the Jerusalem court and requested a rehearing regarding the continued detention of their clients.
“The arrest of the Palestinians marks, it seems, a change of circumstances in the case, and takes on additional strength in light of the version Indore gave during his investigation at the hospital,” said Rom. “The picture of the evidence has changed and tipped the scale towards their release.”
The case has drawn sharply different reactions, with opposition politicians and left-wing activist groups quick to accuse the Jewish suspects of murder.
Labor Party leader Merav Michaeli called for the deportation of the family of the “terrorist settler” on Sunday, doubling down the next day after receiving pushback for her remarks from pro-settlement groups and coalition members.
“It turns out that there are those who don’t like the fact that I said that the Netanyahu coalition is a party of terrorism supporters. So I’ll take this opportunity to say it clearly one more time,” Michaeli tweeted on Monday.
Benny Gantz, head of the opposition National Unity faction, spoke on Sunday of the development of a “dangerous Jewish nationalist terrorism.”
Israel Gantz, head of the Binyamin Regional Council, criticized the rush to judgment. “The hatred among elements of the extreme left is amazing. Even a Jew who is hospitalized in serious condition with a deep head wound does not make them stop for a moment and think that he probably acted in self-defense, to save his life,” he said.
“They give automatic backing to the terrorism that threatens us every day on the roads, in the settlements and everywhere,” he said.
Israeli media focused on the fact that one of the suspects, Yered, had previously worked as a spokesman for MK Limor Son Har-Melech of the Otzma Yehudit Party, a far-right member of Netanyahu’s coalition.
At the hearing, it emerged that Yered had picked up Indore’s gun after Indore collapsed during his evacuation to a military intensive care vehicle. Yered took the gun to his home in Ramat Migron. Shortly thereafter, he made contact with district police and asked them where he should hand over the weapon.
“Despite this and despite giving a detailed version of events, he was suspected of obstructing investigative procedures. This is ridiculous because if he or others had hurried to get rid of the gun, they could have done so easily, but he passed the gun himself to the police,” Israeli news site HaKol HaYehudi reported.
“The conduct of the [police] investigation unit, arresting two who were attacked and wounded, is nothing short of scandalous,” said Yered’s attorney, Avichai Hajbi. “I am sure that in the coming days the picture will become clearer and the case will be closed as quickly as it was opened.”
Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, head of Otzma Yehudit, tweeted on Sunday, “The Israeli media (again) got confused: a Jew who defends himself and others against … Palestinians is not a murder suspect but a hero who will receive my full support.
“There may be some who are confused about which side they are on— I’m not confused. Always on the side of my people, certainly when the danger of death hovers over the head of a Jew who is required to respond with determination and heroism,” he said.