Murder of Palestinian by settler, deemed as a 'terrorist attack' by the US, 'downgraded' by Israel
Israeli police downgraded a homicide charge on Friday against a Jewish settler suspected of killing a Palestinian in what the United States has described as a "terror attack".
A new remand request filed by police, a copy of which was obtained by Haaretz and shared with Reuters, showed Yehiel Indore was accused of "deliberate or depraved-indifference homicide" in the 4 August shooting of 19-year-old Qusai Maatan.
But unlike in previous remand requests in the case, he was no longer accused of acting out of "racist motivation" - an addendum which, under Israeli law, gives courts latitude to impose harsher punishment in the event of a conviction.
Washington, whose traditionally close ties with Israel have become strained, has described the incident as a "terror attack by Israeli extremist settlers".
There was no immediate confirmation of the amended charge from police, headed by far-right national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.
Police detained two settlers in last Friday's incident near Burqa village and said an investigation of the case was ongoing, though there has been no formal indictment.
Palestinians said the suspects were part of a group of some 150-200 settlers who threw rocks, torched cars and, when confronted by villagers, shot dead Maatan and wounded several others.
A defence lawyer said the settlers - including Indore, who remains in hospital due to a head injury he says was caused by a rock thrown at him - acted in self-defence.
On Thursday, a military court ordered a Palestinian father and three of his sons who were detained over the settler raid to be released on bail.
Israel captured the West Bank, which belongs to Palestinians as the core of a UN-mandated independent state blocked by Israel, in the 1967 'Six-Day War'. As it continues to expand settlements that are definitively illegal under international law, settler violence has risen.
The expansion has strained US-Israeli relations, as has a judicial overhaul drafted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right coalition that has sparked nationwide protests.
The United Nations recorded 591 settler-related incidents that led to Palestinian casualties, property damage or both in the first six months of 2023, the highest daily average since 2006.
Israel cites biblical and historical ties to the West Bank, which ministers in Netanyahu's coalition have said they want to annex, which is illegal under international law.
The US Embassy in Israel had no immediate comment on Friday's development.