Israel arrests 10 Palestinians over alleged naval attack

Israeli authorities delayed the announcement of the March 12 arrests for three weeks

Relatives of 25-year-old Ahmed Arafa, who was shot and killed Tuesday by Israeli troops during the ongoing protest along the Gaza Strip border with Israel, mourn during his funeral in town of Deir el-Balah, central Gaza Strip, Wednesday, April 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
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Israeli authorities said on Wednesday they had arrested 10 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip over alleged plans to carry out a missile attack and hostage taking against a navy ship.

Seven of those arrested were released later on Wednesday by an Israeli court, while three were kept in custody, including the main suspect, who was charged, Israel's Shin Bet domestic security agency said.

Authorities did not explain why the announcement of the March 12 arrests was delayed for more than three weeks, though Israel often keeps such cases under a gag order while it investigates.

The announcement comes ahead of expected new mass protests along the Gaza Strip's border with Israel on Friday.

A protest by tens of thousands last Friday led to clashes in which Israeli forces killed 17 Palestinians and injured more than 1,400 others, the bloodiest day since a 2014 war. There were no casualties among Israelis.

A funeral was held in the town of Deir El Balah, central Gaza, on Wednesday for 25-year-old Palestinian Ahmed Omar Arafa, who was shot and killed on Tuesday by Israeli gunfire during on going protests near the border.


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Shin Bet announced the arrests in a statement, saying the 10 Palestinians from the city of Rafah in southern Gaza were on a boat outside a designated fishing zone off the blockaded enclave.

It alleged one of those arrested, fisherman Amin Juma, 24, has been involved in "terrorist activities" for militant group Islamic Jihad.

According to the statement, Islamic Jihad assigned him to gather information to prepare for an attack using a Kornet missile against an Israeli naval vessel.

It said the plan was to fire on an Israeli vessel and take hostages that could be used in a prisoner exchange.

Juma was charged on Wednesday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the arrests were connected to Friday's protests.

"This is proof of the true intentions of the terror groups in Gaza who are trying to hide their murderous plans by staging provocations along our border whose sole purpose is to provide cover for terrorists to carry out their attacks against Israel," he said in a statement.

Israel's use of live fire last week has come under criticism from rights groups, while the European Union and UN chief Antonio Guterres have called for an independent investigation.

Israel has defended its soldiers' actions, saying they opened fire only when necessary against those throwing stones and firebombs or rolling tyres at soldiers.

It said there were attempts to damage the fence and infiltrate Israel, while alleging there was also an attempted gun attack against soldiers along the border.

Palestinians say protesters were fired on while posing no threat to soldiers.