Tensions escalate in the West Bank after deadly Israeli settler assault

Israeli rights groups Peace Now and B’Tselem described the attacks as a settler ‘pogrom’. (Photo: Shadi Jarar’ah/Al Jazeera)

At least 300 attacks, including shootings and arson, have been carried out by Israeli settlers against Palestinian villages in the Nablus region of the occupied West Bank, according to Palestinian officials.

Samih al-Aqtash, a 37-year-old Palestinian, was shot in the stomach by Israeli-protected settlers in the hamlet of Zaatara, south of Nablus, on Sunday night. Due to his injuries, he died. The father of five returned home five days ago after volunteering in Turkey to assist earthquake victims.

The Palestinian Red Crescent reported that at least 390 Palestinians were injured in the settler rampage across the villages of Huwara, Zaatara, Burin, and Asira al-Qibliya, all of which are located south of Nablus. Most injuries were caused by tear gas fired by the Israeli army and smoke inhalation from widespread fires set by the settlers.

The Palestinian media reported stabbings and rock and metal rod attacks. The Palestinian Ministry of Health said that one individual was hospitalized with skull fractures after being struck in the head with a rock. Another guy was hit in the face with a metal rod.

Saddam Omar, a Huwara local, referred to the assault as "barbaric."

"Yesterday, we witnessed a new level of colonizing settler crimes in which they attacked everything aggressively," he told Al Jazeera.

He stated, "I mean stores, people, supermarkets, houses, trees, cars, and carports." They attempted to enter the residences. They nearly destroyed everything."

Omar stated that the settlers were "completely safeguarded by the Israeli military."

At least 30 Palestinian homes and 100 vehicles were set on fire by settlers, according to Ghassan Daghlas, the head of settlement monitoring for the Palestinian Authority in the northern West Bank, speaking to Al Jazeera. There were no residents who suffered burn injuries.

Daghlas stated that the scale and duration of the attack were unprecedented and that the Israeli army was a "partner" in the assaults.

According to the Israeli army, a Palestinian gunman shot and wounded an Israeli in the occupied West Bank on Monday afternoon.

According to the IDF, the assailant opened fire on an Israeli vehicle near the Palestinian city of Jericho. He continued driving, killing a motorist, and he opened fire on a second vehicle.

The army reported setting up roadblocks and searching for the perpetrator, who fled in a car.

The Israeli who was slain was also a U.S. citizen, according to State Department spokesman Ned Price.

Israel deployed hundreds of soldiers to the occupied West Bank earlier on Monday. The southernmost gateway of Nablus, Huwara, was closed.

Widespread condemnation

The settlers went on their rampage shortly after two Israeli settlers were shot and murdered in Huwara by a Palestinian man. Two brothers in their twenties lived in the unauthorized settlement of Har Bracha, south of Nablus.

Local and international politicians, non-governmental organizations, and human rights organizations have extensively denounced the violence.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said in a statement, "All these crimes must soon be met with international intervention to hold the occupation authorities accountable and put an end to them: scenes of burning houses and cars, assaults on citizens, preventing fire trucks from reaching burned houses, and assaults on ambulances transporting the injured and sick."

"We hold the occupation authorities fully accountable for these heinous crimes, which reflect a systematic policy practised by the Israeli government," he said, adding that a ministerial committee will be formed to reimburse the injured people.

The Al Haq rights organization in Ramallah stated that the attack was "the result of decades of impunity enjoyed by Israel and settlers for international crimes committed against Palestinians."

A Palestinian legislator in the Israeli parliament, Sami Abu Shahadeh, stated, "The Zionist pogrom in Huwara is a result of the Israeli government's Jewish supremacist political platform."

The Israeli rights organizations Peace Now and B'Tselem also called the attacks a government-backed "settler pogrom."

In addition to the United States and France, several international governments condemned the attacks.

Rising settler attacks

The number of Israeli settler attacks has steadily increased over the previous six years. In the past year, attacks on villages in the Nablus region, with a high concentration of settlers, have grown and become more organized.

Some of these episodes have been captured on camera, revealing that the attacks took place under the protection or cooperation of the Israeli military, with troops and settlers occasionally firing alongside one another.

In a statement issued on December 15, the United Nations noted that 2022 marks the sixth consecutive year in which the number of Israeli settler attacks in the occupied West Bank has increased.

It is difficult to distinguish between Israeli settler and state violence due to disturbing evidence that Israeli soldiers routinely facilitate, assist, and participate in settlement attacks. The statement stated, "armed and masked Israeli settlers are attacking Palestinians in their homes, children on their way to school, destroying property and torching olive groves, and terrorizing entire communities with complete impunity."

In recent weeks, the situation on the ground has become extremely tense due to Israel's multiple large-scale operations in Palestinian cities, which resulted in the deaths of scores of Palestinians.

During a raid on Nablus on Wednesday, Israeli troops murdered 11 Palestinians and wounded more than 100, the majority with live bullets. Since 2005, the most significant number of Palestinians have been killed in a single Israeli military operation.

In an attack on the Jenin refugee camp less than a month ago, the Israeli army killed ten Palestinians, including two children and a 61-year-old mother.

Since the beginning of 2023, the Israeli army and settlers have killed 67 Palestinians, including 13 children. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, death is the greatest in 22 years.

Sunday's events in Nablus occurred during meetings between Palestinian Authority and Israeli officials at the port of Aqaba on the Red Sea. Officials from the United States and Egypt also attended the meeting, which many Palestinians opposed and rejected.

Publish : 2023-02-28 11:26:00

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