Last updated: 8 January, 2012

Israel charges five Jews over army base raid

Israel on Sunday charged five alleged Jewish extremists over a December raid on an army base, accusing them of gathering intelligence on the Israeli military and planning a riot, the indictment said.

The accused, from Jerusalem and two West Bank settlements, are alleged to have rampaged through a military base after having spent months “meticulously collecting information” on the army’s movement.

The men are being charged with “gathering important military intelligence, conspiracy to riot and entering a closed military zone.”

The charge sheet alleges that the men spent months monitoring military movements in a bid to prevent the demolition of small outpost settlements in the occupied West Bank.

It alleges the men relied on a network of 30 informers who fed them information about troop movements and potential demolition operations.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz, citing court documents that have not been made public, said one of the informers was an Israeli lawmaker from the right-leaning Likud party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On the evening of December 12, the group of men allegedly acted on information about a pending demolition and organised an attack on a military brigade headquarters in the northern West Bank.

Around about 50 rightwing activists breached the base’s perimeter fence and went on the rampage, setting fire to tyres, assaulting a senior officer and damaging vehicles with stones, paint and nails.

The December raid was just one in a rising tide of so-called “price-tag” attacks by settlers and their supporters aimed at stopping government moves to dismantle wildcat West Bank settlement outposts.

The attacks have mainly targeted Palestinian property and the homes and offices of Israeli peace activists, but of late they have twice struck military bases associated with outpost demolition operations, enraging the political leadership which has vowed to clamp down on the perpetrators.

Destruction of Palestinian property, including the vandalising of several mosques in the West Bank and Jerusalem, has rarely resulted in Israeli legal action.

“Of all of the mosques which have been torched or damaged in the past two years, there have not been any charges,” Sarit Michaeli of Israeli rights group B’tselem told AFP.

Police say they arrested suspects in connection with mosque attacks but were unable to press charges for lack of evidence.