Israeli West Bank raid kills 2 Palestinians and a court releases a Jewish settler charged in shooting death

Tia Goldenberg

AP  /  August 15, 2023

TEL AVIV, Israel – Israeli forces shot and killed two Palestinians, including a 16-year-old, in a raid in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, Palestinian health officials said, in the latest violence to shake the region.

Some of that violence has been perpetrated by radical Jewish settlers in the West Bank and on Tuesday, an Israeli court released from detention a settler allegedly involved in the shooting death earlier this month of a 19-year-old Palestinian, placing him under house arrest. Yehiel Indore’s release follows the release from detention last week of another settler accused of involvement in the same incident who also was transferred to house arrest.

Israel has been carrying out near-nightly raids in the West Bank since last year in response to a spate of Palestinian attacks, fueling tensions in the region and sending the death toll soaring. Tuesday’s developments come amid a spike in attacks on Palestinians by radical settlers, Jewish settlement expansion and as Israel is led by a government of ultranationalist settlement supporters.

The Palestinian Health Ministry identified those killed on Tuesday as Qusay al-Walaji, 16, and Mohammed Nujoom, 25. The statement added that the raid took place in the Jericho area, which has seen heavy fighting over the last 16 months.

The Israeli military said in its statement that Palestinians opened fire at forces operating in the Aqabat Jabr refugee camp near Jericho and the forces fired back.

The court said it would release Indore, the main suspect in the killing of 19-year-old Qusai Matan, because there was not sufficient evidence to extend his detention. His release from police custody highlighted a sense among Palestinians and rights groups that Israel treats radical settlers in the West Bank with impunity.

In the incident earlier this month, armed Jewish settlers entered the West Bank village of Burqa, torching at least two cars and opening fire at Palestinians who thronged the street. Matan was killed and four other Palestinians were wounded. The Israeli military said that Matan was shot after an altercation between Palestinians and settlers escalated, leading settlers to open fire and Palestinians to hurl rocks and fireworks.

Police have accused the two Jewish settlers of causing death, obstructing justice and committing a nationalistically motivated arson attack. The defendants claim that they were acting in self-defense. Indore was wounded in the confrontation and spent much of his detention in a hospital bed.

Also Tuesday, the military said it had detected a failed rocket launch in the northern West Bank and said forces were inspecting the remains of the improvised device. Hamas, the militant group that rules the Gaza Strip, said it was behind the attempted launch, which it said was aimed at a West Bank settlement.

The incident is part of an uptick over recent months of rocket launches from the territory. The rockets have been rudimentary and do not appear to have caused any damage.

The ongoing Israeli-Palestinian violence in the West Bank has surged to levels unseen in nearly two decades, with more than 170 Palestinians killed by Israeli fire since the start of 2023, according to a tally by The Associated Press.

Israel says most of those killed have been militants, but stone-throwing youths protesting the raids and others not involved in the confrontations also have been killed.

At least 27 people have been killed in Palestinian attacks against Israelis during that time.

Israel says the raids are essential to dismantle militant networks and thwart future attacks. The Palestinians see the violence as a natural response to 56 years of occupation, including stepped-up settlement construction by Israel’s government and increased violence by Jewish settlers.

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war, along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. Palestinians seek those territories for their hoped-for independent state.