Israeli police arrest five over Jewish settler rampage in West Bank

Reuters  /  March 1, 2023

Officers says they expect to make more arrests over violence described by Israeli general as ‘pogrom’.

Israeli police have arrested five suspects over a Jewish settler rampage in the occupied West Bank earlier this week that an Israeli general described as a “pogrom” and which followed a deadly Palestinian gun attack.

Shops in the Palestinian village of Huwara remained closed on army orders on Wednesday amid a heavy Israeli military presence, residents said. A Palestinian gunman killed two Israeli brothers there on Sunday, prompting assaults by settlers on houses and cars during which one Palestinian was killed.

Israeli police said on Wednesday they expected to make more arrests during a continuing investigation into the settler violence in and around Huwara.

The Palestinian prime minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, speaking during a visit to the village on Wednesday, said the arrests were not enough. “We see an organised crime perpetrated by the Israeli government and carried out by the settlers,” he said.

Maj Gen Yehuda Fuchs, who commands the Israeli military in the area, said his forces had prepared for attempted settler retribution but had been surprised by the intensity of the violence, which he said was perpetrated by dozens of people.

“The incident in Huwara was a pogrom carried out by outlaws,” he told N12 News late on Tuesday.

A “pogrom” is a mob attack, approved or condoned by authorities, against a religious, racial, or national minority. The term is usually applied to attacks on Jews in the Russian Empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Israeli military also said on Wednesday it had arrested two individuals suspected of killing an Israeli-American in a shooting attack on Monday. The arrests were made in the Palestinian Aqabat refugee camp in the West Bank, according to the Israeli military.

More than 60 Palestinians, among them gunmen and civilians, have been killed in clashes with Israeli security forces, along with 13 Israelis and one Ukrainian citizen killed in attacks on Israelis since the start of 2023.

Fuchs’ comments came amid increased tensions within the nationalist-religious government of Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, which includes hardline settlers demanding tough action against Palestinian attacks.

One of them, the far-right National Security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, has called on people “not to take the law into their own hands”, while his Jewish Power party has accused Netanyahu of being weak on terrorism.

Fuchs said: “This is not ‘taking the law into your own hands,’ because lawful people don’t sow terror among the population. Collective punishment doesn’t help combating terrorism, on the contrary it might even cause terrorism.”

With the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and Jewish Passover festival just weeks away, foreign mediators have sought to tamp down tensions that surged after a spate of deadly Palestinian street attacks and lethal Israeli military raids last year.

“I’m worried,” the US ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, said at a conference of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies late on Tuesday.

“This is going to be a very complicated period of time we’re about to walk into, we’ve got to keep things as calm as possible to keep things from getting out of control, which could easily happen,” said Nides.