Two Jewish settlers have been charged with “committing an act of terror” after an axe attack earlier this month on a Palestinian family in the occupied West Bank, Israel’s Shin Bet security agency said on Thursday.
Shin Bet said the attack occurred in the northern West Bank town of Hawara — the same town where hundreds of settlers burnt houses and property in a rampage late last month that left one Palestinian dead.
The two settlers were arrested for an attack that occurred the following week, on March 6. Security camera footage showed two assailants throwing stones at a Palestinian car. One is then seen repeatedly striking one of the windows with what appears to be a hatchet or small axe before the car drives away.
The two suspects — one a resident of the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar and the other a resident of the unauthorised outpost of Givat Ronen — were charged on Thursday with committing an act of terrorism and intentional sabotage of a vehicle with racist intent, Shin Bet said.
Upon seeing the settlers emerge from two vehicles armed with an axe, hammer, stones and pepper spray, shoppers rushed into a supermarket and closed its metal shutters to defend themselves.
A Palestinian couple and their toddler daughter remained in their car as one of settlers who was charged allegedly threw stones at the vehicle while the other allegedly used an axe to break its windows and attack the father.
The father suffered wounds to his shoulder and arm. The family eventually managed to drive away as the settlers hurled rocks at them, wounding the father in the head.
The pair were charged with “a severe act of terror” and “racially-motivated” damage, which prosecutors alleged had “an ideological or nationalistic motive”.
The agency said the pair belonged to a “violent group” that tries to harm Palestinians and disrupt the activities of the Israeli military in the area. “The Shin Bet sees these acts, which are carried out under nationalistic motives, as a danger to national security,” it said.
There is frequent friction in Hawara, which is near several hard-line Jewish settlements. Arrests of Israelis for attacks on Palestinians are rare.
Last month’s settler rampage occurred after two Israelis were killed while driving through the town. Four Israelis have subsequently been wounded in two other shootings there.
Israel’s police force says it has arrested 16 people in connection with the February 26 rampage, including two suspects who are being held without charge while the investigation continues.