Two Jewish settlers killed in occupied West Bank attack

Al-Jazeera  /  February 26, 2023

Israel’s military says a gunman ‘opened fire towards an Israeli vehicle’ at a junction near the city of Nablus.

A Palestinian gunman has killed two Jewish settlers in their car in the occupied West Bank, sparking violence in which a Palestinian man was shot dead as Jewish settlers torched homes in Palestinian villages.

The latest deaths came amid talks in Jordan to discuss worsening violence in the occupied territory, and days after Israeli forces launched their deadliest raid on the occupied West Bank in nearly 20 years, which left 11 Palestinians dead in the city of Nablus.

Sunday’s attack on the two settlers, brothers in their 20s who lived in a Jewish settlement about 8km (5 miles) away, took place on the main road in Hawara, just south of Nablus.

A joint statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir on Sunday said, “two Israeli civilians were killed in a Palestinian terror attack”.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

Late on Sunday, Israeli media reported clashes between Palestinians and Jewish settlers near Huwwara. Palestinian news agency WAFA reported that the settlers “set fire to several Palestinian-owned houses” in villages near Nablus.

A 37-year-old Palestinian was shot dead by a settler in Zaatara village near Nablus, the Palestinian health ministry said.

The Israeli army did not immediately comment but said it had evacuated dozens of Palestinians from their homes in Hawara because they were threatened by fire.

Ghassan Daghlas, an official in charge of anti-settlement activities, said several Palestinian houses and 15 cars had been set on fire.

Abdullah al-Huwari, a witness, told the AFP news agency that “large numbers of settlers attacked the village of Hawara”, setting fire to homes and cars.

“I see in front of me flames,” the 36-year-old said. “Wherever I turn my eyes, I see the flames of a burning house.”

Israeli President Isaac Herzog issued a “forceful condemnation”.

“Taking the law into one’s own hands, rioting, and committing violence against innocents — this is not our way,” Herzog said.

The Palestinian Red Cross said 98 people were treated, most after inhaling tear gas, while Israeli emergency services reported three Israelis injured after being hit by stones.

Netanyahu, in a video released by his office, called for calm.

“I ask — even when the blood is boiling — not to take the law into one’s hands,” Netanyahu said, calling for the security forces to “be allowed to carry out their work”.

The office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of “protecting terrorist acts perpetrated by settlers” in the occupied West Bank.

Israel looks for suspect

Al-Jazeera’s Sara Khairat, reporting from West Jerusalem, said Israeli forces were searching for the gunman who killed the two Israelis.

“Israeli security forces closed down some of the checkpoints and they are still looking for the person who carried this [attack] out,” she said.

Israel’s Defence minister, meanwhile, called for beefing up the military presence in the occupied West Bank.

An Israeli ministerial committee also gave initial approval to a proposal that would impose the death penalty on Palestinians involved in deadly attacks. The measure was sent to legislators for further debate.

“On a difficult day in which two Israelis were murdered in a Palestinian terror attack, there is nothing more symbolic that passing the death penalty law on terrorists,” said Ben-Gvir, who is from the far right and himself a West Bank settler.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, another settler leader, called for “striking the cities of terror and its instigators without mercy, with tanks and helicopters, in a way that conveys that the master of the house has gone crazy”.

Mustafa Barghouti, the secretary general of the Palestinian National Initiative, said the presence of settlers within the Israeli government had made the situation even more difficult for Palestinians.

“The only way I can describe it is that this is behaviour of fascist gangs who are the Israeli [Jewish] settlers, protected and supported by the Israeli army,” Barghouti told Al-Jazeera from Ramallah. “The fate of the Palestinian people is in the hands of illegal settlers. They are attacking and shooting people left and right and the Israeli army is doing nothing to stop them.”

Meanwhile, the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad heralded Sunday’s shooting in Hawara as a “heroic operation”.

“It sends a strong message to the Aqaba summit that our [Palestinian] resistance is present,” said Islamic Jihad, which had joined Hamas and other Palestinian groups in opposing the Jordan talks.

Sunday’s shooting attack comes amid rising tensions across the occupied West Bank following the Israeli military raid in Nablus.

According to Palestinian figures, at least 65 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the start of this year.

On Sunday, Israeli and Palestinian representatives were holding talks in Jordan, according to state media in the kingdom, in a “political-security” meeting aiming to restore calm after deadly violence.

Jordanian state broadcaster Al-Mamlaka said the meeting, which kicked off in the Red Sea resort of Aqaba, was “the first of its kind in years between Palestinians and Israelis with regional and international participation” and would address “the situation in the Palestinian territories”.



Palestinian kills two Jewish settlers near Nablus

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  February 26, 2023

Meanwhile, the Knesset passes legislation approving the death penalty for those convicted of terrorism offences on the same day Israeli and Palestinian leaders began talks in Jordan.

Two Jewish settlers were killed by a Palestinian near the occupied West Bank city of Nablus on Sunday, according to Israeli officials. 

Hillel and Yagel Yaniv, two brothers from Har Bracha, an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank, were fatally shot in their car while driving through the Palestinian town of Hawara.

The assailant rammed the vehicle, before shooting at the two and fleeing the scene, sources told Haaretz. Israel’s military said it was pursuing the perpetrator. 

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attack. 

Later that evening, locals reported that Jewish settlers had entered Hawara, burning Palestinian houses, cars and shops. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a joint statement following the shooting, announcing that the Knesset had passed legislation approving the death penalty for those convicted of terrorism offences against Israelis.

“On this difficult day when two Israeli citizens were murdered in a Palestinian terrorist attack, there is nothing more symbolic than passing a death penalty law for terrorists,” the statement read.

Jewish settlers attacked neighbourhoods and properties in Palestinian villages near the scene of the attack, according to the WAFA news agency. Israeli soldiers also set up checkpoints near Nablus, it added.

Jordan talks 

It comes on the same day that Israeli and Palestinian leadership began talks in Jordan, following a deadly escalation in violence in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli forces killed 11 Palestinians, including a child and three elderly people, and wounded 100 others on Wednesday during a military raid in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus.

More than 60 Israeli military vehicles stormed Nablus after an undercover force was spotted in the historic Old City, eyewitnesses told Middle East Eye.

“It was very scary… We could hear the sounds of explosions and people screaming in the street, and many of us started crying and praying to God to protect the city and its residents,” Nablus resident Nabeela Suliman told MEE.

The raid, which lasted for four hours, focused on a building in the city that reportedly housed Palestinian resistance fighters.

“The Hawara operation is a natural response to the occupation’s crimes, the latest of which was the Nablus massacre,” a spokesperson for Hamas said on Sunday.

“The resistance in the West Bank will remain present and escalate, and no plan or summit will be able to stop it.”

At least 62 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis this year, at a rate of more than one fatality per day.

This follows a steep increase in violence in 2022 when at least 167 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the highest death toll in those territories in a single year since the Second Intifada.