Israeli soldiers arrested over Bethlehem attack as West Bank tensions simmer

Media reports three Druze soldiers threw explosive at home in retaliation for death of Israeli Druze teenager in Jenin

Israeli soldiers at the scene of a scuffle between Palestinians and Israeli settlers in Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Reuters
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Israel has said some of its soldiers have been arrested after allegedly throwing an explosive device at a home in Bethlehem as tensions continue to simmer in the occupied West Bank.

The army said a number of soldiers were arrested on Monday morning on suspicion of targeting a home in the town. It said an investigation had been opened into the incident.

Public broadcaster Kan said three Druze soldiers were arrested over the attack, said to be in response to the death of an Israeli Druze teenager in Jenin.

The family of Tiron Feri, 17, said he was removed from life support and left to die in hospital following a car crash near the West Bank town on Tuesday. It came only days before a rare twin bombing struck Jerusalem, killing two people and threatening to ignite more violence in what has been the bloodiest year in the region for more than a decade.

In addition to Tiron, two Palestinian teenagers died within 24 hours of the Jerusalem bombing, in an army raid and a clash near Hebron.

Departing prime minister Yair Lapid said Tiron's father saw his son being taken from the hospital by Palestinian gunmen. Israel closed checkpoints leading to Jenin in response.

Large protests broke out in Tiron's hometown of Daliyat Al Carmel, near the city of Haifa, after Tiron was kept in the West Bank while others wounded in the car crash were transferred to Israel for medical treatment.

The mayor of Daliyat Al Carmel warned locals in his town against storming Jenin in efforts to retrieve the teenager's body, which was returned on Thursday following talks with the Palestinian Authority.

Israeli Druze Sheikhs recite prayers in front of the coffin of 17-year-old Tiran Fero, on November 24, 2022, during his funeral ceremony in Daliyat al Karmel, around 20 kms southeast of Haifa.  - The body of Tiran Fero, who was critically wounded in a car accident on November 22, was snatched by Palestinian militants in the occupied West Bank and returned to his relatives, following intense talks to avoid an escalation of violence.  Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid had threatened tough reprisals against those who had taken the body of the Israeli teenager.  (Photo by JALAA MAREY  /  AFP)

Five Palestinian workers were beaten in northern Israel in an apparent revenge attack.

Elsewhere in the West Bank, two students who visited Hebron were reportedly placed under house arrest on suspicion of assault and "disturbing the peace", Haaretz reported. The flashpoint city saw a flare-up in violence last week as Israeli settlers targeted Palestinian homes while on a pilgrimage, injuring one Israeli soldier and several Palestinian residents.

'Democracy dismantled'

While fears Tiron's death may fuel further violence have now dissipated, Israeli officials have warned the incoming government and its policies will lead to more lives lost.

On Monday, Mr Lapid said Israel's democracy was being "dismantled" as former veteran PM Benjamin Netanyahu forms his Cabinet, already poised to feature several polarising far-right ministers.

Mr Netanyahu himself is still on trial on charges of corruption. Mr Lapid hit out at his successor's proposals to change the legal system and quash proceedings against him.

"The democratic foundations of the country are being dismantled, all just for personal reasons. There is no other reason," he said.

Speaking to the Israeli Democracy Institute, Defence Minister Benny Gantz said Itamar Ben-Gvir's plans to assume leadership of border police in the occupied West Bank was "a security mistake that could cost human lives".

Mr Ben-Gvir, an ultraright politician previously banned from the Knesset for inciting racism, will head Israel's police as part of the new government. He has called for the death sentence for Palestinian terrorists and pledged support for unrecognised Israeli outposts in the occupied West Bank.

Moving control of the border guards under Mr Ben-Gvir's control "stems at best from a lack of understanding and at worst from a desire to establish a private militia for Ben-Gvir", said Mr Gantz.

West Bank settlements, illegal under international law, expanded rapidly during Mr Netanyahu's rule and are expected to benefit from additional funding and resources when a new government is formed. Mr Ben-Gvir lives in the settlement of Kiryat Arba and has reiterated calls for the death penalty since last week's Jerusalem attack.

Updated: November 28, 2022, 2:05 PM