Israeli settlers rampage through occupied West Bank town amid de-escalation talks

Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that settlers 'set fire to several Palestinian-owned houses' in villages near Nablus

Israeli settlers rampage through Palestinian West Bank town

Israeli settlers rampage through Palestinian West Bank town
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Scores of Israeli settlers went on a violent rampage in the northern part of the occupied West Bank on Sunday evening, 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 the violence in the Palestinian village of Burin, north of Hawara in the West Bank.

At least six settlers were arrested after the violence in Hawara.

Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that settlers “set fire to several Palestinian-owned houses” in villages near Nablus.

Palestinian Sameh Aqtash, 37, was shot dead in Zaatara village near Nablus, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

The Israeli army did not immediately comment but said it had evacuated dozens of Palestinians from homes threatened by fires in Hawara.

Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu called for calm. “I am asking, while blood is boiling and winds are high — don’t take the law into your hands,” he said.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog struck a similar tone. “Taking the law into one’s own hands, rioting and committing violence against innocents — this is not our way, and I express my forceful condemnation,” he said.

The latest spate of violence took place after Israel agreed on Sunday to curb its settlement activity in occupied Palestinian territory after a meeting with Palestinian security officials in the Jordanian port city of Aqaba.

The nature of the agreement was thrown into confusion on Sunday evening when Mr Netanyahu tweeted that “authorisation” of settlements would continue “according to the original planning and building schedule”.

The Prime Minister's comments came only a few hours after Israel signed an agreement at the summit saying it would “stop authorisation of any outposts for six months”.

The talks in Jordan to discuss worsening violence in the occupied territory come days after Israeli forces launched their deadliest West Bank raid in 20 years, which left 11 Palestinians dead in the northern city of Nablus.

In a tweet posted late on Sunday, Palestinian politician Hussein Al Sheikh said that the attack was unprecedented, putting “all options all options before [the Palestinian Authority] to confront this new fascism”.

The US called for an immediate de-escalation of the violence.

“We condemn today’s violence in the West Bank, including the terrorist attack that killed two Israelis and settler violence, which resulted in the killing of one Palestinian, injuries to over 100 others, and the destruction of extensive property,” US State Department spokesman Ned Prince said.

“These developments underscore the imperative to immediately de-escalate tensions in words and deeds. The United States will continue to work with Israelis and Palestinians, and our regional partners towards restoring calm.”

The office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of “protecting terrorist acts perpetrated by settlers” in the occupied West Bank.

The aggressors had been inspired by “the positions of some ministers in this extreme right-wing Israeli government”, Mr Abbas said.

Israeli forces are still hunting for a Palestinian gunman who killed Hallel and Yagel Yaniv on Sunday morning.

The military also said it would “reinforce” the West Bank with “two additional battalions” and expand “security checks on routes leading in and out of [Nablus]".

The occupied West Bank is home to about 2.9 million Palestinians, as well as an estimated 475,000 Jewish settlers, who live in state-approved settlements considered illegal under international law.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since the Six-Day War of 1967.

Updated: February 27, 2023, 12:53 PM