Dozens of Israeli settlers rampaged through Palestinian towns in the occupied West Bank on Sunday night, torching cars, homes and killing a man, hours after a Palestinian gunman killed two Israelis.
The scenes bore the trademark of a violent, once-prominent settler movement known as “price taggers,” whose mission was to extract a “price” for any Palestinian attacks or Israeli decisions to limit settlement expansion.
Sunday’s rampage, which focused on the town of Huwara, was a response to a drive-by shooting that killed two brothers from a nearby Israeli settlement. And it came just hours after a rare meeting between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Jordan, where Israel promised to suspend settlement expansion in the West Bank.
While the meeting was taking place Sunday, a Palestinian gunman opened fire at a traffic junction in Huwara, south of Nablus, killing Hillel Menachem Yaniv (22) and Yagel Yaakov Yaniv (20) brothers from the nearby Har Bracha settlement – itself likely a retaliation for an Israeli raid on Nablus the week before that killed 11 Palestinians, including militants and civilians.
After sunset Sunday, scores of settlers descended on Huwara and at least three other locations across the northern West Bank. Residents said that the Israeli army failed to intervene as the rioters set fire to cars, businesses, schools and homes, and threw stones at firetrucks and ambulances that attempted to treat casualties at the scene.
Some 60 settlers descended on Zatara, a village near Huwara, and shot Sameh al-Aqtash (37) in the abdomen, said his nephew Fadi al-Aqtash. He died while the family tried to get him to a hospital because the Israeli military had blocked the road.
“One bullet ended his life and left behind five orphans,” Fadi said.
Ghassan Doughlas, a Palestinian official responsible for the northern West Bank, said that 100 Palestinians were injured in Sunday’s attacks, including several who had been stabbed or beaten with metal rods, and others who required treatment for tear gas inhalation.
“A Huwara that is burning – that’s the only way we’ll achieve deterrence,” Tzvika Foghel, a lawmaker from the far right Jewish Power party, told Galei Israel radio on Monday. “We need to stop shying away from collective punishment.”
Following the shooting on Sunday, the Knesset advanced legislation to apply the death penalty for terrorism charges, despite arguments by the attorney general and officials in the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, that it would not deter terrorists.
Israel yesterday sent hundreds more troops to the West Bank. It also closed many of the roads and set up roadblocks in and around Huwara. Soldiers accompanied at least two groups of settlers yesterday, some wearing ski masks and others waving Israeli flags at a road junction, as the roads remained mostly empty.
An Israeli military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the army viewed the violent settlers as “terrorists” whose attacks had forced the redistribution of military forces as it searched for the Palestinian gunman, who is still at large.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price yesterday condemned the violence, saying that “these developments underscore the imperative to immediately de-escalate tensions in words and deeds.”
It was in an attempt to head off the spiraling unrest that brought Israeli and Palestinian officials together for their first meeting in years in Jordan’s coastal city of Aqaba. They issued a joint statement, which said that Israel would halt building plans for settlement units for four months and stop the authorisation of outposts – smaller and typically more radical settlements, considered illegal under Israeli law – for six months. (© Washington Post)
© Washington Post