Israel: Minister likens security chiefs to Wagner over Jewish settler violence rebuke

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  June 26, 2023

Israel’s security establishment called Jewish settler attacks ‘nationalist terror’ provoking criticism from far-right minister Orit Strock.

A far-right Israeli minister has compared the country’s security chiefs to the Russian Wagner Group after they condemned settler attacks in the occupied West Bank.

Settler gangs on Sunday morning burned crops in the Palestinian town of Turmusaya only days after the village was subjected to a rampage that left at least 3o houses and 70 vehicles on fire. 

More than 400 settlers stormed the village on Wednesday under the protection of the Israeli army, killing one Palestinian.

In response, the heads of the police, army, and Shin Bet intelligence service released a statement denouncing the attacks as “nationalist terror”.

On Monday, the Minister of Settlements and National Missions Orit Strock, a member of the Knesset for the far-right Religious Zionist Party, criticized the security chiefs’ intervention.

“Who are you? The Wagner Group? Who are you to make such a statement under the government’s nose?” she said in a radio interview, referencing the mercenary group who were involved in a failed uprising against Russian President Vladimir Putin over the weekend.

“They will preach to us about morals? I’m against these events but it’s a disgrace to call this nationalist terror.”

Escalating violence

Israeli violence has engulfed the West Bank this past week following army raids on the Jenin refugee camp on Monday that left seven Palestinians dead.

The raids were followed by a shooting on Tuesday by two Palestinians that left four Israeli settlers dead. 

Israel continued to ratchet up tensions when on Wednesday it carried out its first drone strike in the West Bank in almost 20 years, leaving three Palestinians dead. 

Last year, faced with an increase of armed resistance in the West Bank, Israel publicly initiated the Break the Wave campaign, ramping up near-daily military raids across the West Bank and an escalation in Israel’s shoot-to-kill policy, resulting in mass arrests and the deadliest year for Palestinians in the occupied territories since the Second Intifada two decades ago. 

Since the start of this year, Israeli forces and settlers have killed at least 171 Palestinians, including 26 children.

A total of 135 fatalities have been recorded in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and a further 36 in the Gaza Strip. In the same period, Palestinians have killed at least 24 Israelis.