Palestinians accuse West Bank settlers of arson attack after two soldiers shot

Israeli police claim fire was probably due to a short circuit

A girl in a house in Sinjel, Ramallah, after it was allegedly set on fire by Israeli settlers, following a shooting attack against Israeli soldiers the previous night. EPA
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The Palestinian foreign ministry has accused Israeli settlers of an arson attack against a family home in the occupied West Bank on Sunday as violence continues unabated during Ramadan.

No one was hurt in the pre-dawn fire in Sinjel, north-east of Ramallah, but a local resident told Reuters he saw cars whose occupants he recognised as Jewish settlers nearby minutes before the incident.

The foreign ministry blamed the fire on “Jewish terrorist elements” but Israeli police said it was probably due to a short circuit.

Israeli-Palestinian tensions have remained high since Ramadan began on Thursday, with nightly army raids in the occupied West Bank and a shooting which injured two Israeli soldiers on Saturday.

Ahmed Awashreh, the owner of the home that was badly damaged, said he was woken by the sound of a window smashing and managed to evacuate his wife and four children and wife before the flames spread.

“It was so close. I'm happy I saved my family,” he was reported by Reuters as saying.

Saturday's shooting, claimed by the Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine (PLFP), took place in Hawara — a Palestinian town which has been a flashpoint for violence in recent weeks.

The shooting marks the third attack against Israeli forces stationed near Hawara in the last month.

It follows a widely-condemned settler attack on the town after two Israeli brothers from a nearby settlement were killed while passing through the Hawara last month.

One Palestinian was killed and dozens of homes and businesses set alight when settlers attacked the town, prompting international outcry.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich later called for the town to be “erased,” forcing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to downplay the remarks.

Foreign ministers from the Gulf Co-operation Council sent a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday, condemning Mr Smotrich's comments and urging Washington to act against anti-Palestinian remarks.

Mr Smotrich also came under fire for claiming “there is no such thing as Palestinians” and displaying a flag depicting Jordan and the occupied West Bank as within Israeli borders, angering Amman.

Israel's new administration, in power since November, is the most right-wing in its history and threatens to shatter the fragile status quo.

The US made the rare move of summoning Israel's ambassador in Washington over legislation to repeal a ban on West Bank settlements.

Washington last week reiterated the importance of all sides “refraining from actions or rhetoric that could further inflame tensions leading into the Ramadan, Passover and Easter holidays.”

Updated: March 26, 2023, 4:39 PM