Settlers set fire to Palestinian property in the West Bank as violence escalates
Israeli settlers set fire to Palestinian homes, shops and cars in a residential area in the occupied West Bank, Sunday night, following the killing of two Israeli brothers in the village of Hawara near Nablus.
About 400 Palestinians were also injured during the riots, one of whom was seriously injured after being hit on the head with a stone during settler attacks.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health said that a 37-year-old Palestinian, Sameh Aktash, was shot dead in the evening in the village of Za’tara, south of Nablus.
Flames and smoke rose into the night sky, and Israeli media described the attack as indicative of a “loss of control” by the army, which was slow to respond and unable to contain the violence.
The two Israeli settlers were killed during a meeting in Aqaba, Jordan, between Israeli and Palestinian officials, at the end of which they pledged to “prevent further violence.”
According to AFP, a spokeswoman for the head of the Israeli Settlement Council in the northern West Bank confirmed that the two dead were the two brothers, Hilal, 22, and Yagil, 20, Yaniv, from the Har Bracha settlement.
The shooting, which targeted a vehicle, took place at a crossroads near the village of Hawara, between the cities of Nablus and Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir described the attack in a joint statement as a “Palestinian terrorist attack”.
Reports stated that the settlers continued their assault for hours in the town of Hawara, the site of the shooting, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, setting fire to more than 15 houses, and burning more than twenty cars.
On social media, Palestinians expressed their anger at the scale of the riot.
But the protesting Israeli settlers said they were calling on the security forces to deal with what they described as terror dens in the area.
Omar Shakir, director of Israeli and Palestinian affairs at Human Rights Watch, told the BBC that the situation was grim.
He added, “We are witnessing unprecedented levels of violence and oppression. We have already seen that more than sixty Palestinians have been killed so far this year, which may exceed the number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank last year.”
He continued, “We saw Israeli civilians killed by Palestinians, and last night we witnessed another episode of settler violence.
We are talking about a long situation of daily violence, which is escalating and becoming more intense and ugly, and it is a terrifying situation that needs to be resolved by looking at the core issues, which are Israeli apartheid versus the Palestinians.
The latest developments come several days after the Israeli military operation, Wednesday, in the city of Nablus, which killed 11 Palestinians and wounded more than 80 with live bullets.
The bloody escalation between the two sides prompted calls to stop the violence.
Christopher Berger, a spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry, said during a press conference on Monday: “It is urgent to respect the agreements to avoid escalation and for everyone to commit now not to inflame a very tense situation in the first place.”
“France strongly condemns the attack that killed Israelis on February 26,” the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that acts of violence against Palestinian civilians are unacceptable, expressing its fear that the situation in the occupied West Bank will get out of “control.”
In Aqaba on the Red Sea, representatives of the Palestinian and Israeli sides discussed Sunday a “calm” after months of bloody violence.
A statement distributed by the Jordanian Foreign Ministry at the end of the meeting stated that “the Palestinian and Israeli sides affirmed their commitment to all previous agreements between them (…) and reaffirmed the need to commit to reducing escalation on the ground and preventing further violence.”
The meeting between the two sides is the first of its kind in years, as peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have stalled since 2014.
For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied that he had agreed to stop settlement construction in the West Bank, according to what was announced after a meeting between senior Israeli and Palestinian officials yesterday in Aqaba.
A joint statement issued after the US-sponsored meeting said Israel committed not to discuss new construction plans in settlements for four months or legalize unauthorized outposts for six months.
Two far-right ministers, Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, rejected the joint statement, with Smotrich stressing that settlement construction would not stop “even for one day.”
The new Israeli government granted Ben Gvir, who was known for his incitement against the Arabs, wide powers in the West Bank, at a time when the right-wing government pledged to continue settlement expansion at the expense of the Palestinians.
The Israeli settlements, where about 475,000 settlers live, are considered illegal under international law, while the number of Palestinians in the West Bank is 2.9 million.
Prior to the formation of the government, Netanyahu confirmed that he would work to develop settlements “all over the Land of Israel, in the Galilee, the Negev, the Golan, and in Judea and Samaria (the occupied West Bank).”