Maureen Clare Murphy
The Electronic Intifada / June 21, 2023
A Palestinian man was killed in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday as Jewish settlers rampaged in multiple areas in the territory. The mob violence followed a shooting attack that left four Israelis dead the previous day.
At the time of publication, the Israeli military had reportedly carried out a drone strike on a car carrying armed Palestinians north of Jenin, killing three, marking a dramatic escalation in the use of force against resistance activists in the West Bank.
Also late Wednesday, hundreds of settlers had reportedly stormed Urif village, the hometown of the two alleged gunmen who were killed after Tuesday’s shooting attack in Eli settlement.
Palestinians in Urif launched firecrackers towards the settlers to repel the settlers.
Israeli forces launched crowd control weapons at Palestinians attempting to defend their village.
Also on Wednesday, a 14-year-old Palestinian girl died from injuries sustained in Jenin on Monday, bringing the number of fatalities from that raid to seven.
Turmus Aya attack
Omar Jabara, 25, who was also known by the surname Abu Qateen, was killed by Israeli forces in Turmus Aya, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, while settlers besieged the town under the protection of occupation forces.
Israeli police claimed that an officer “hit at least one Palestinian in the town who was suspected of opening fire” towards them.
However, an eyewitness told reporters that Jabara was unarmed and nowhere near Israeli forces when he was killed.
Meanwhile, settlers fired live bullets towards residents, burned property and set fire to agricultural land.
The AP news agency said that following the attack, “streets were littered [with] broken pots, uprooted trees, charred yard furniture and skeletons of cars.”
“At least one house was completely torched, the living room blackened, the furniture burned to ashes.”
A Palestinian-American man who was visiting the village, where he is from, told AP that “it was terrifying, we just saw mobs of people in the streets, masked, armed.”
He said that the army facilitated the attackers, “literally clearing the way for them.”
A Palestinian-American woman, visiting her homeland for the first time in 30 years, said that settlers tried to burn her children alive in their home.
Lafi Adeeb, the mayor of Turmus Aya, told the official Palestinian news agency WAFA that around 400 settlers participated in the attack, during which 12 people were injured by live fire.
Adeeb said that settlers set fire to 30 homes and more than 60 vehicles and called for international protection from daily attacks from Israelis living in colonies surrounding the town.
The Palestine Red Crescent Society said that settlers prevented ambulances from reaching Turmus Aya to treat the injured.
Palestinians expressed anger at the Palestinian Authority for failing to protect them from armed settlers, with one resident of Turmus Aya venting his frustration during a press conference with PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh.
The rampage in Turmus Aya was disturbingly similar to that which occurred in Huwara, near Nablus, following the shooting death of two settlers in February.
Even Israeli military officials described that event, during which a Palestinian man was killed, as a “pogrom.”
That term, Yiddish for “devastation,” is used to describe violent riots organized with the aim of massacring or expelling a defenseless population, and is associated with the persecution of Jews in Europe.
An investigation by the US news broadcaster CNN found that Israeli forces failed to stop the attack in Huwara in February and failed to “protect residents as settlers set fire to Palestinian homes and businesses and blocked emergency services from responding.”
Instead, the military fired crowd control weapons at Palestinians as they attempted to defend themselves by throwing rocks.
A soldier who was present said that “we just let them [the settlers] continue to advance,” and that the army generally “doesn’t know how to deal with settler terrorism.”
Human rights groups have long pointed out that settlers and the military work in tandem as the state encourages vigilante attacks on Palestinians in an effort to drive them off of their land.
The primary function of Israel’s military in the occupied West Bank is to protect settlers living in Jewish-only colonies built in violation of international law.
B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, has pointed to the “synergy” of cooperation: “the settlers carry out the attack, the military secures it, the politicians back it.”
The Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq said that the attacks on Palestinian communities this week “is the result of Israel’s longstanding policy to allow and encourage grave acts of settler violence.”
Al-Haq noted the role of Israel’s judiciary in granting impunity to those involved in attacks.
Settler violence against Palestinians is a daily reality but according to the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din, “93 percent of all [Israeli] investigations into ideologically motivated crime in the West Bank are closed without an indictment.”
Most cases aren’t investigated by police because Palestinians see little purpose in filing reports on settler violence that will only go ignored. Since 2005, only 3 percent of investigations related to settler attacks have led to convictions, contributing “to the perpetrators’ sense of immunity,” according to Yesh Din.
On Tuesday, after two Palestinians shot and killed four Israelis in Eli Jewish settlement, settlers attacked Huwara, vandalizing cars and homes.
According to B’Tselem, “when Palestinian residents came to protect their own property, soldiers shot at them with tear gas grenades and rubber-coated metal bullets. A Red Crescent ambulance was burned after it was hit by a tear gas grenade.”
Dozens of settlers, accompanied by the military, besieged al-Lubban al-Sharqiya village for several hours on Tuesday night, where they “smashed windows of seven homes, burned five cars and damaged a gas station,” B’Tselem said.
Like in Huwwara, “soldiers shot rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas grenades at residents who tried to defend themselves,” according to the rights group.
Settlers also caused damage in several other Palestinian communities and attacked Palestinian drivers in multiple areas.
Girl shot in head dies
Meanwhile, 14-year-old Sadil Ghasan Ibrahim Naghnaghieh died from her injuries on Wednesday after she was shot by an Israeli soldier during a raid in Jenin on Monday morning.
Defense for Children International-Palestine said that the girl was shot “by an Israeli soldier inside an armored military vehicle passing near her house.”
Sadil was sitting in the garden of her home and recording a video of Israeli military vehicles traveling nearby when “an Israeli soldier opened the vehicle’s back door and fired two bullets.” One of the bullets struck Sadil’s head and injured her brain.
The children’s rights group said that according to its documentation, “there were no confrontations between Israeli forces and Palestinians in that area” when Sadil was shot.
The girl was one of two children killed during the raid. Her death brings to seven the total number of Palestinian fatalities from the raid.
UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, said that both Sadil and Ahmad Saqer, a 15-year-old boy who was also killed in the raid, were both students enrolled in its schools.
The agency added that at least 75 refugee homes were damaged during the raids.
Israeli forces have killed 22 Palestinian children in the West Bank so far this year, and four in Gaza. Additionally, a 10-year-old boy in Gaza died from injuries sustained in an Israeli strike in 2022.
Ayed Abu Eqtaish, a program director with Defense for Children International-Palestine, said that the killing of Sadil “demonstrates that Israeli forces enjoy total impunity with no fear of repercussions.”
He added that “filming Israeli soldiers on a cell phone is not a crime. Targeting and killing Palestinian children is a war crime.”
Journalists said that they were deliberately targeted by Israeli soldiers during the raid in Jenin on Monday.
The Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz quoted a journalist, identified as Hafez, saying that he was shot at by soldiers while he was photographing confrontations between troops and Palestinians.
Three bullets were fired at his car, one of them hitting the driver’s side door. He believes he was deliberately targeted, saying that “our car is a marked journalist’s car and I was wearing a vest identifying me as press.”
He was shot at again when he was among a group of journalists that “came under direct fire from a sniper in one of the buildings.”
He added that “we were trapped there for 20 minutes and could only leave when it was all over.”
Another journalist who was present said they were wearing clothing identifying themselves as press when soldiers “started shooting at us. We hadn’t done anything, we were only taking pictures.”
Last month, the watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists said that it has documented at least 20 journalists killed by the Israeli military over two decades, with no one being “charged or held responsible for these deaths.”
This impunity “has severely undermined the freedom of the press, leaving the rights of journalists in precarity.”
In May last year, Al-Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh, who held US citizenship, was killed while covering an Israeli raid in Jenin.
Numerous independent investigations have concluded that she was deliberately killed by Israeli troops.
A documentary by Al-Jazeera portrays the complicity of the Biden administration in Washington in Israel’s cover-up of its responsibility for her death, for which no one has been held accountable.
More than 170 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli police, soldiers and settlers so far this year, or died as a result of injuries sustained previously, according to The Electronic Intifada’s tracking.
Around 30 people were killed in Israel and the West Bank as a result of Palestinian attacks during the same period, or died from injuries sustained previously.
Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada