Israeli army blocks rally to support West Bank town of Hawara

Jewish settlers in Sunday's attack torched dozens of homes and businesses in Hawara

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The Israeli military fired stun grenades and blocked hundreds of Israeli left-wing activists from staging a solidarity rally on Friday in a Palestinian town that was set ablaze by radical Jewish settlers this week, protesters said.

Activists from Israeli rights organisations said soldiers and border policemen prevented busloads of protesters from entering the occupied West Bank town of Hawara, which still bears the scars of Sunday's attack.

In one case, soldiers shoved and wrestled with one of the demonstrators before briefly detaining him, said Sally Abed from the group Standing Together.

The Israeli army did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hundreds of settlers, some armed with knives and guns, rampaged through Hawara on Sunday and torched dozens of homes and businesses after two Israeli brothers were shot and killed near by. One Palestinian was killed in the mob assault.

On Friday, about 500 people holding signs of solidarity and Palestinian flags — mostly older men and women, both Jews and Arab citizens — stepped off the buses and headed down the road towards Hawara in defiance the army's orders.

Palestinian motorists honked in support. The protesters chanted, “No to occupation” and “End Jewish terror". Facing the mass of police and troops deployed to halt their peaceful protest, they shouted, “Where were you when Hawara happened?” — referring to the rampage that went largely unchecked and unpunished.

A burnt-out car after the Israeli settlers' rampage in Hawara, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.  Reuters

The Israeli army has said that the ferocity and scope of the settler mobs caught them by surprise. The Defence Ministry has sent two suspected ringleaders of the violence to administrative detention.

In response to the crowds streaming towards Hawara, the Israeli military fired stun grenades to stop the march of settlers, Ms Abed said.

Unlike Palestinian cities like Ramallah that are under the control of the Palestinian Authority, Hawara is mostly under Israeli security control.

Earlier in the day, a delegation of European diplomats toured Hawara and a neighbouring village to survey the damage and denounce the mayhem.

A chorus of condemnations over the violence has poured in from around the world, particularly after Finance Minister and settler leader Bezalel Smotrich said on Wednesday that Hawara should be “erased". Mr Smotrich, whose party wants Israel to formally annex large parts of the West Bank, later backtracked on those remarks.

Egypt's Foreign Ministry on Friday called Mr Smotrich's remarks a “dangerous and unacceptable incitement of violence”.

Updated: March 03, 2023, 6:02 PM