Palestine’s Huwara should be wiped out: top Israeli minister [general calls the Huwara attack ‘a pogrom’; arrested perpetrators set free]

Al-Jazeera  /  March 1, 2023

Finance minister Bezalel Smotrich calls for the destruction of Huwara village that was the target of deadly settler rampage.

A senior Israeli minister has said the Palestinian village of Huwara should be “wiped out” days after far-right Jewish settlers went on a rampage in the occupied West Bank villages, torching dozens of houses and cars in the wake of the killing of two Israeli brothers.

“I think the village of Huwara needs to be wiped out. I think the state of Israel should do it,” Israeli Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich, who also handles civil administration in the occupied West Bank, was quoted as saying by Israeli media on Wednesday.

The Israeli police on Wednesday arrested six suspects over the deadly attacks in villages around the West Bank city of Nablus during which settlers fired live ammunition killing a 37-year-old Palestinian man.

“It’s incredibly inflammatory,” said Al-Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from West Jerusalem.

“A very senior minister who is in charge of some affairs within the occupied West Bank for Israel calling for the destruction of a Palestinian city,” Khan said.

His comments came after Zvika Fogel, a member of parliament from the radical Jewish Power party, on Monday appeared to welcome the settler violence in Huwara – home to about 7,000 people.

“A terrorist came out of Huwara – and Huwara was closed and burned,” Fogel said. “This is what I want to see. That’s the only way we’ll achieve deterrence.”

“After a murder like [Sunday’s], villages should burn when the [Israeli army] does not act,” she added.

Fogel, who is part of far-right coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is now under investigation by the attorney general and the police.

A US State Department spokesman called the comments “repugnant, irresponsible and disgusting.”

Ned Price called on the Israeli prime minister and other top officials there to publicly disavow the comments by Finance Minister Smotrich.

At least 390 Palestinians were injured in the attacks that an Israeli general described as a “pogrom”, with Palestinian media reporting stabbings and attacks with metal rods and rocks.

Israeli police said they expected to make more arrests during their ongoing investigation into the settler violence, which centred on the Palestinian village of Huwara, where the two Israeli brothers from a nearby settlement were shot dead.

Israeli media outlets had reported on Tuesday that only eight settlers had previously been arrested following the violence and that they had all been released.

Major-General Yehuda Fuchs, who commands the Israeli military in the area, defended his forces’ role in the violence, after Palestinians accused soldiers of standing by as the settlers attacked.

Fuchs called the incident a “pogrom” and said while his forces had prepared for settler attacks, they 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,” Fuchs told N12 News late on Tuesday.

Political tensions

Fuchs’s comments came amid increased tensions within the far-right government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which includes hardline settlers demanding tough action against Palestinian attacks.

One of them, 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”.

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

However, Ben-Gvir himself had responded to the violence by holding a news conference at the illegal settlement outpost of Evytar, where he called for the outpost to be legalized.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces carried out raids in the Aqabat Jaber refugee camp on Wednesday in connection with the shooting and killing of an Israeli-American man on Monday, according to Al-Jazeera’s Nida Ibrahim, reporting from Jericho in occupied West Bank.

The Israeli Defence minister claimed two Palestinians were arrested in connection to Monday’s attack while the Palestinians say at least six people were arrested by the Israeli forces, four of them brothers, she said, adding that the entry to Jericho was blockaded by the Israeli army for hours.

With the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Jewish Passover festival weeks away, foreign mediators have sought to tamp down tensions that have surged in the past year.

Israeli forces carried out three large-scale raids in Palestinian cities since Israel’s new government took office at the end of last year, including one in Nablus on February 22 that led to the largest Palestinian death toll in a single Israeli military operation since 2005.

Palestinian armed activity has also increased, with several groups emerging over the last year in the West Bank.

“I’m worried,” said US Ambassador Tom Nides at Tel Aviv University’s conference of the 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,” Nides said.



‘Repugnant’: US rebukes Israeli remark on Palestinian village [eight suspects arrested out of hundreds who participated in the Huwara rampage – and released all of them the next day]

AJ Staff

Al-Jazeera  /  March 1, 2023

US State Department condemns Israeli minister’s call for Huwara to be ‘wiped out’, calling it a ‘disgusting’ incitement.

Washington, DC The United States has slammed a top Israeli minister for saying a Palestinian village that had been attacked by settlers needed to be “wiped out“, calling his comments “repugnant”.

US Secretary of State spokesperson Ned Price also urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “publicly and clearly” disavow the remarks that his Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich made against the West Bank village of Huwara.

“These comments were irresponsible. They were repugnant. They were disgusting,” Price told reporters on Wednesday. “And just as we condemn Palestinian incitement to violence, we condemn these provocative remarks that also amount to incitement to violence.”

Smotrich, a far-right Israeli politician who also oversees civil administration in the occupied West Bank, made his remarks days after Jewish settlers stormed Huwara and burned dozens of cars and homes.

“I think the village of Huwara needs to be wiped out. I think the state of Israel should do it,” Smotrich was quoted as saying by Israeli media outlets on Wednesday.

One Palestinian died during the settlers’ attack on Huwara, near the city of Nablus, which came amid a spike of violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Israeli forces killed 11 Palestinians in an invasion of Nablus last week.

Two Israeli settlers were killed by a Palestinian gunman on Sunday, and an Israeli-American motorist was also killed in a shooting attack in Jericho, deep inside the West Bank, earlier this week.

On Wednesday, Price renewed Washington’s call for “equal measures of accountability for extremist actions regardless of the background of the perpetrators, or the victims”.

But according to a report by The Times of Israel newspaper, Israeli authorities had only arrested eight suspects — out of hundreds who participated in the Huwara rampage — and released all of them by Tuesday.

Washington has been increasingly critical of the policies of Netanyahu’s far-right government, including the expansion of Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

Palestinian rights advocates, however, have been calling for concrete action from the administration of US President Joe Biden to deter further Israeli abuses.

Israel, accused of imposing a system of apartheid by leading human rights organizations like Amnesty International, receives at least $3.8bn of US aid annually.

On Thursday, Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), an advocacy group, urged the State Department to impose a US visa ban on Smotrich.

“The Biden Administration should not allow senior government officials inciting atrocities against Palestinian civilians to spread their violent and hateful rhetoric in the United States,” Sarah Leah Whitson, DAWN’s executive director, said in a statement.

“The ‘exceptional’ nature of the US-Israel relationship should have its limits, and banning Smotrich would send an important signal that the US will not tolerate such dangerous, reckless incitement to violence.”

Earlier this week, J Street, a Jewish-American group that describes itself as pro-Israel and pro-peace, called on Biden to set “clear redlines and tangible consequences” for Israeli government policies.

“Only then can the Biden Administration truly hope to halt the escalation of violence and terror, advance US interests, defend Israeli and Palestinian rights and lives, and help secure Israel’s future as a democracy,” J Street said in a statement on Monday.

Biden, a self-proclaimed Zionist, has repeatedly affirmed his “ironclad” commitment to Israel, dismissing calls for imposing conditions on US aid to the country.