Tags: settlers israel west bank palestinians attacks

Israel Arrests 3 Settlers Suspected in Violent Attacks in Palestinian Towns

Friday, 23 June 2023 09:00 AM EDT

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s security agency said Friday it had detained three Israeli settlers on suspicion of involvement in mass rampages through Palestinian towns in the occupied West Bank this week following the killing of four Israelis.

While rights groups welcomed the arrests, the small number of suspects given the scale of the attacks have revived criticism of the wider lack of accountability for Israeli settlers. The arrests fueled concerns that the Israeli military is not doing enough to stop and prevent settler attacks.

“We didn’t expect much,” said Roy Yellin, of the Israeli rights group B’Tselem. “The rule is impunity from justice.”

Israel’s Shin Bet security agency did not identify the three Israelis detained or offer further details, saying only they were suspected of participating in “violent incidents.”

Over the past three days, Jewish settlers have torched and vandalized dozens of Palestinian homes and cars throughout the occupied West Bank. Their ferocity echoed a deadly settler rampage in February in the northern Palestinian town of Hawara. Some Israeli settlers were detained following that attack, but swiftly released without indictments.

The Israeli rights group Yesh Din on Friday described the arrests as “a drop in the ocean” given the scale and intensity of the violence.

The group said it documented the burning of at least 30 Palestinian homes, 60 cars, a gas station, multiple shops, a mosque and school throughout northern West Bank villages this week. The number of homes and cars burned or vandalized, it acknowledged, is probably higher.

Wheat fields outside of Ramallah were also set ablaze, turning the hillsides of the northern West Bank into an inferno.

The group’s director, Ziv Stahl, alleged that the Israeli military’s inability or unwillingness to prevent the settler attacks that roiled the West Bank in revenge for Wednesday’s Palestinian shooting attack was “part of an intentional policy rather than a mistake.”

“(The army) had four mounts after (the attack in) Hawara to study how to deal with this and stop it,” she said. “But everything happened in broad daylight. They didn’t detain anyone on the scene. They allowed the settlers to do whatever they felt like doing.”

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the accusations.

The surging violence in the West Bank has created a test for Israel’s far-right government, which has vowed take a hard line against the Palestinians and expand settlements.

On Wednesday, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visited Eviatar, an unauthorized settlement outpost in the northern West Bank that was evacuated by the previous Israeli government in 2021.

There, addressing a crowd of young ideological Jewish settlers, he demanded that the government “launch a military operation (against Palestinian militants in the West Bank), take down buildings and eliminate terrorists.”

"Not just one or two," he said. “But dozens and hundreds and if needed, thousands.”

Wednesday’s violence particularly traumatized residents of Turmus Ayya and Urif, the hometown of the two assailants who carried out Wednesday’s fatal shooting, leaving residents fearful for their safety. When the Israeli army arrived to try to disperse the hundreds of armed settlers who had stormed into Turmus Ayya, confrontations erupted between Israeli security forces and Palestinian residents who hurled stones and fireworks, killing a 27-year-old Palestinian and wounding at least a dozen others.

Security footage of the attacks that circulated on social media Friday drew further outrage. Apparent CCTV footage from the town of Urif on Wednesday authenticated by Yesh Din showed a masked man violently ripping out all the pages of a Quran, flinging the pages into the street as he tugged a large dog on a leash.

Mustafa Shehadeh, head of the medical team in Urif, said the man broke broke the door of the village mosque, let his dog loose in the prayer room and grabbed at least 10 Qurans. “He ripped them up in front of me and threw all of them into the trash,” he said. Settlers also hurled stones at homes with children inside, he said, wounding at least 40 people, many of them in the head.

“The attacks were painful and powerful in a way I will never forget,” he said.

Other videos from Turmus Ayya show a group of young vandals shooting apparently at random in the direction of Palestinian homes.

Vigilante violence against Palestinian towns continued late Thursday, with residents reporting settlers throwing stones at Palestinians in villages north of Ramallah and south of the city of Hebron, wounding at least six people.

The scale of the violence has put increased pressure on the Palestinian Authority, which exerts limited autonomy in parts of the West Bank. During Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh’s visit to the ruined homes and charred cars of Turmus Ayya, usually a sleepy community lined with luxurious villas and palm trees, a few older residents interrupted his press conference. They demanded that the Palestinian Authority do more to protect its people, either by deploying security forces or giving them weapons.

A member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, Bassam al-Salhi, appealed on Friday for the creation of an armed Palestinain national guard to fend off settlers in Palestinian towns vulnerable to settler attacks.

Palestinian officials dismissed the idea but said authorities were considering the formation of village watch teams and other unarmed civilian committees to alert Palestinian residents to settler rampages.

“This is really something necessary,” said Ahmad Majdalani, the minister of social development. “The Palestinian people are defenseless and must mobilize peacefully against such aggression.”

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Israel's security agency said Friday it had detained three Israeli settlers on suspicion of involvement in mass rampages through Palestinian towns in the occupied West Bank this week following the killing of four Israelis.While rights groups welcomed the arrests, the small...
settlers israel west bank palestinians attacks
Friday, 23 June 2023 09:00 AM
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