Israeli Police Raid Palestinian Village of Sandala Three Weeks After Protests Over Murder of a Resident by Jewish-Israeli

After legal intervention coordinated by Adalah, all seven detainees were released with conditions and were issued a 10-day restraining order preventing them from returning to their village. Adalah: The quasi-military police operation was aimed at deterring legitimate protests. The arrest and subsequent detentions were done without legal grounds and constitutes a deliberate misuse of detention as means to suppress political expression.

Today, 24 May 2023, the Nazareth District Court held a hearing on an appeal, wherein six residents of Sandala and one resident of Mukeibleh, all arrested yesterday, 23 May, during a police raid in Sandala, were released on bail and placed under restrictive conditions. As part of these conditions, the detainees are forbidden from contacting each other for a period of two weeks and are restricted from staying in Sandala for 10 days. Furthermore, they are prohibited from leaving the country for 90 days. Moreover, a 17-year-old detainee, whose detention was extended for an additional 24 hours the day prior, is expected to be released today. The court decision was a result of an appeal filed against a previous decision by the Nazareth Magistrate Court a day earlier, which had approved a 48-hour extension of all the detainees' detention. The appeal was filed by attorneys Ahmad Khalifa, Omar Khamaisi - director of Meezan Center for Human Rights, and Mohammed Omari from the Public Defender's Office, who represented the detainees, and Adalah Attorney Nareman Shehadeh-Zoabi who coordinated the legal representation.


On 23 May 2023, a large police force carried out a raid in the Palestinian village of Sandala, located in northern Israel. The police brutally searched numerous homes and arrested 13 Palestinian citizens, whom they claimed were suspected of participating in a spontaneous protest that took place over two weeks earlier, on 6 May 2023. The protest was a response to the murder of 19-year-old Palestinian citizen Diyar Omari by an armed Jewish-Israeli resident of the nearby settlement Gan-Ner. Later that day the Magistrates court approved the Police’s request to extend the detention of seven of the detainees for a period of 48 hours, and the detention of a 17-year-old minor for 24 hours.


The police raid and arrests took place following the issuance of arrest warrants on May 17th. It is worth noting that none of the detainees were summoned for questioning at the police station prior to their arrests. During the hearing to extend, the police argued that the extension of detention was necessary due to concerns about the detainees coordinating their testimonies and the potential danger they posed. In response, the legal team representing the detainees emphasized that these allegations have no basis, especially considering the significant amount of time that had passed since the initial incident in question  and the fact that none of them had any criminal records. The attorneys further argued that the detainees had already provided their versions of events in the morning hours after their arrest and later were held in the same detention cell, thus refuting the police's claim of a fear of testimony coordination. In their appeal, the detainees' attorneys further highlighted that the arrests were made without any concrete evidence linking them to the alleged offenses, and therefore, there was no legal justification for their continued detention.


Adalah Attorney Nareman Shehadeh-Zoabi responded:


"The quasi-military arrest operation carried out in Sandala, whereby the police forcefully invaded homes and carried out arbitrary arrests, was primarily aimed at instilling fear among the residents and deterring them from engaging in legitimate protest against the murder of 19-year-old Diyar Omari, while depicting it as a riot. The police's failure to present any substantial evidence linking the detainees to the alleged acts clearly demonstrates the arbitrariness of their arrests and detentions. The release of the detainees today does not rectify the injustice done to these young individuals who were unjustly held in custody based on unsubstantiated accusations. The recent events clearly demonstrate how the Israeli authorities continually use arrests and detention as a method of punishment against Palestinian citizens, contrary to the principles of the rule of law.”


Photo: Israeli police, video of raid on Sandala, 23 May 2023.