Israeli police open 143 criminal files on Hebron Jews

JERUSALEM — Hebron police have opened 143 investigation files this year on crimes perpetrated by Jews, West Bank Police Commander Yitzhak Aharonovitch said last week.

Thirty-seven files were closed after the perpetrators couldn't be found; 24 files were handed over to the state attorney's office to file charges.

Eighty-two are still under investigation.

The figures cover the period from January until August.

For the same period in 1997, West Bank Police spokesman Opher Sivan said, Hebron police opened 134 files related to Jewish residents.

Since the murder of Rabbi Shlomo Ra'anan on Aug. 20, 15 files have been opened against Jewish residents and 11 files against Palestinians, he said.

Of the 15 files related to Jews, Aharonovitch said the majority were for arson or property damage.

Police have completed investigating nine of the 15 files, and charges will be filed against three suspects.

Six files are still under investigation, added Sivan.

Police attempt to deal with both Jewish and Palestinian residents equally, Aharonovitch said.

Nevertheless, he emphasized the lack of cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, which he said generally doesn't assist in turning over Palestinian perpetrators when Israel police want to question someone suspected of assaulting a Jewish resident or clashing with Israeli troops.

Due to the tensions in the area, Aharonovitch decided to add eight more officers to the Hebron police station.

He stressed there is a very small minority of lawbreakers among the Jewish residents in Hebron and Kiryat Arba, and called on the public to refrain from smearing the entire settlement community throughout the West Bank.

Meanwhile, police have intensified their activities in Hebron due to the rise in tension there. Aharonovitch said tension has been building since the recent murders of Dov Driben in Maon, the two yeshiva students at Yitzhar, and Ra'anan at Tel Rumeida.

Last week, Shin Bet head Ami Ayalon met with settlement leaders at the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Council director general Aharon Domb said the three-hour meeting dealt mainly with security matters and relations between security forces and the settlers.

Settlement leaders hoped there would be more such meetings with Ayalon in the future.

In related developments, Palestinian Authority officials accused Israel of violating the agreements by carrying out archeological digs at Tel Rumeida.

Lt. Peter Lerner, the Israeli Civil Administration spokesman, rejected the charges.

He declared that the dig was linked to building a military structure and is thus a security matter.

Palestinian Authority official Mahmoud Jabarin, overseeing the digs, called for the work to stop.

He claimed that Israel had made use of the recent curfew to continue work at the site.

Lerner rejected those claims, explaining that the work had begun long before the curfew had been imposed.