Israeli settlers rampage through Huwara, Palestinians killed


HUWARA, West Bank — Dozens of Israeli settlers rampaged through Palestinian towns, burning cars and houses and killing a man, hours after a Palestinian gunman killed two Israelis.

The scenes of Sunday night’s hour-long rampage bore the trademark of a once-active settler movement known as “price tags,” whose mission is to secure a “price” for Palestinian attacks or threats to the settler movement.

Sunday’s rampage, which mainly targeted the town of Huwara, was in response to a drive-by shooting that killed two brothers from a nearby settlement. It also came after a rare meeting between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Jordan, in which Israel vowed to halt settlement expansion in the West Bank — the land the Palestinians envision as part of their future state.

At least 11 Palestinians killed, 100 wounded in Israeli raid on West Bank

While the meeting was taking place on Sunday, a Palestinian gunman opened fire at a traffic junction in Huwara, south of Nablus in the The Israeli-occupied West Bank killed Hillel Menachem Yaniv, 22, and Yagel Yaakov Yaniv, 20, brothers from the nearby Har Bracha settlement — itself likely in retaliation for an Israeli attack on Nablus the previous week that left 11 dead.

After sunset, dozens of settlers moved to Huwara and several other villages in the northern West Bank.

“Instead of Jews not being allowed to enter Huwara, it should be the Arab enemy who should lock themselves up and not leave their homes!” said a message in a WhatsApp group calling on members to take part in the attack.

“A Huwara that is closed and on fire – that is the only way we can achieve deterrence,” Tzvika Foghel, a legislator from the far-right Jewish Power Party, told Galei Israel radio the next day. “We have to stop shying away from collective punishment.”

After Sunday’s shooting, the Knesset passed legislation to apply the death penalty to charges of terrorism, despite arguments from the attorney general and officials of the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, that it would not have a deterrent effect.

During the attack on Huwara, settlers fatally shot 37-year-old Sameh Al-Aqtash in the abdomen, said Ghassan Doughlas, a Palestinian Authority official responsible for the northern West Bank. He said another four Palestinians were treated for stab wounds and an estimated 100 others were injured by beatings with metal rods and by tear gas inhalation.

On Monday, Israel sent hundreds more troops to the West Bank. It also closed many roads and set up roadblocks in and around Huwara, where the streets were mostly empty on Monday. Soldiers accompanied at least two groups of settlers, some wearing balaclavas and others waving Israeli flags at a crossroads.

An Israeli military official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the security situation, said the army viewed the violent settlers as “terrorists” whose attacks forced the redeployment of forces as it undertook the manhunt for the Palestinian gunman. , which is still ongoing.

That is what the spokesman for the US State Department, Ned Price, said on Monday convicted the events, saying that “these developments underline the need to immediately de-escalate tensions in word and deed.”

It was in an attempt to deal with the growing unrest that Israeli and Palestinian officials met for the first time in years in the Jordanian coastal city of Aqaba. They issued a joint statement saying that Israel would stop building settlement plans for four months and permission for outposts — smaller and generally more radical settlements, considered illegal under Israeli law — would be suspended for six months. stop.

The agreement also required Israel to respect the status quo on the site in Jerusalem known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Shrine, which has served as a focal point in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades.

But far-right members of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition have indicated they are not keeping promises made at the meeting, which took place with US, Egyptian and Jordanian officials.

Bezalel Smotrich, the leader of the Religious Zionist Party, the third-largest bloc in the coalition, said he had “no idea” about the discussions at the “unnecessary conference” in Jordan, but that Israel would not agree to a freeze of the settlements. , “even for one day.”

“What happened in Jordan (if it happened) stays in Jordan,” National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir tweeted. Last month, Ben Gvir, who has long been part of the extremist fringe of the settler movement, visited Jerusalem’s holy site for a 13-minute tour, sparking international condemnations accusing him of inciting unrest.

The summit was convened to quell a spiral of violence that began with a spate of Palestinian attacks on Israelis last spring, to which the Israeli military has responded with near-night raids. The inauguration in November of the most right-wing government in Israel’s history has led to a sharp acceleration in raids, associated deaths and Palestinian attacks against Israelis.

For many on the ground, talks about how to deal with an escalation of violence make no sense: war is already on.

“It was a war last night, an official war,” Refat Amer, a 47-year-old resident of Huwara, said Monday. He added that during the four-hour rampage by settlers, dozens of cars and a high school near his home were set on fire and stones shattered the window of his 7-year-old daughter’s room. Soldiers on the ground have merely cordoned off the area, taking no action to stop the violence, he said.

“They will definitely come back again, but what can we do?” he asked. “We can throw stones at them, and the army will shoot us too.”

Rubin reported from Tel Aviv. Fatima AbdulKarim in Ramallah, West Bank, contributed to this report.

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