Israeli settlers rampage after Palestinian gunman kills 2

The rampage comes shortly after the Jordanian government hosted talks and said the sides had agreed to take steps to de-escalate tensions

By AP

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Israeli soldiers take up positions at the scene of a Palestinian shooting attack at the Hawara checkpoint, near the West Bank city of Nablus. — AP
Israeli soldiers take up positions at the scene of a Palestinian shooting attack at the Hawara checkpoint, near the West Bank city of Nablus. — AP

Published: Mon 27 Feb 2023, 1:26 AM

Scores of Israeli settlers went on a violent rampage in the northern West Bank late Sunday, setting dozens of cars and homes on fire after two settlers were killed by a Palestinian gunman. Palestinian medics said one man was killed and four others were badly wounded in what appeared to be the worst outburst of settler violence in decades.

The deadly shooting, followed by the late-night rampage, immediately raised doubts about Jordan's declaration that Israeli and Palestinian officials had pledged to calm a year-long wave of violence.


Palestinian media said some 30 homes and cars were torched. Photos and video on social media showed large fires burning throughout the town of Hawara — scene of the deadly shooting earlier in the day — and lighting up the sky.

In one video, crowds of Jewish settlers could be heard reciting the Jewish prayer for the dead as they stared at a building in flames. And earlier, a prominent Israeli Cabinet minister and settler leader had called for Israel to strike “without mercy.”


Late Sunday, the Palestinian Health Ministry said a 37-year-old man was shot and killed by Israeli fire. The Palestinian Red Crescent medical service said two other people were shot and wounded, a third person was stabbed and a fourth was beaten with an iron bar. Some 95 others were being treated for tear gas inhalation.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned what he called “the terrorist acts carried out by settlers under the protection of the occupation forces tonight".

“We hold the Israeli government fully responsible,” he added.

As videos of the violence appeared on evening news shows, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appealed for calm and urged against vigilante violence. “I ask that when blood is boiling and the spirit is hot, don’t take the law into your hands,” Netanyahu said in a video statement.

The Israeli military said its chief of staff, Lt-Gen Herzl Halevi was rushing to the scene and that forces were trying to restore order. Israel's army radio station, citing an anonymous official, said 15 houses and 25 cars had been torched, and that the army evacuated nine Palestinian families from their burning homes.

Israeli soldiers take up positions at the scene of a Palestinian shooting attack at the Hawara checkpoint, near the West Bank city of Nablus. — AP
Israeli soldiers take up positions at the scene of a Palestinian shooting attack at the Hawara checkpoint, near the West Bank city of Nablus. — AP

The rampage occurred shortly after the Jordanian government, which hosted Sunday’s talks at the Red Sea resort of Aqaba, said the sides had agreed to take steps to de-escalate tensions and would meet again next month ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

“They reaffirmed the necessity of committing to de-escalation on the ground and to prevent further violence,” the Jordanian Foreign Ministry announced.

After nearly a year of fighting that has killed over 200 Palestinians and more than 40 Israelis in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, the Jordanian announcement marked a small sign of progress. But the situation on the ground immediately cast those commitments into doubt.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a settler leader who lives in the area and has been put in charge of much of Israel’s West Bank policy, called for “striking the cities of terror and its instigators without mercy, with tanks and helicopters".

Using a phrase that calls for a more heavy-handed response, he said Israel should act "in a way that conveys that the master of the house has gone crazy".

An Israeli ministerial committee gave initial approval to a bill that would impose the death penalty on Palestinians convicted in deadly attacks. The measure was sent to lawmakers for further debate.

There were also differing interpretations of what exactly was agreed to in Aqaba between the Palestinians and Israelis.

Jordan’s Foreign Ministry said the representatives agreed to work toward a “just and lasting peace” and had committed to preserving the status quo at Jerusalem's contested holy site.

Officials with Israel's government, the most right-wing in Israeli history, played down Sunday's meeting.

A senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity under government guidelines, said only that the sides in Jordan agreed to set up a committee to work at renewing security ties with the Palestinians. The Palestinians cut off ties last month after a deadly Israeli military raid in the West Bank.

Netanyahu’s national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, who led the Israeli delegation said there were “no changes” in Israeli policies and that plans to build thousands of new settlement homes approved last week would not be affected.

He said “there is no settlement freeze” and “there is no restriction on army activity.”

The Jordanian announcement had said Israel pledged not to legalise any more outposts for six months or to approve any new construction in existing settlements for four months.

The Palestinians, meanwhile, said they had presented a long list of grievances, including an end to Israeli settlement construction on occupied lands and a halt to Israeli military raids on Palestinian towns.

Sunday’s shooting in Hawara came days after an Israeli military raid killed 10 Palestinians in the nearby city of Nablus. The shooting occurred on a major highway that serves both Palestinians and Israeli settlers. The two men who were killed were identified as brothers, ages 21 and 19, from the Jewish settlement of Har Bracha.


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