PA's news agency says settlers attacked village

Two settlers arrested, including ex-aide to MK, over West Bank killing of Palestinian

Police say 5 more detained after violence in Burqa, during which Qusai Jamal Matan was killed; one suspect formerly worked for lawmaker from coalition’s far-right Otzma Yehudit

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Qusai Jamal Matan (Courtesy)
Qusai Jamal Matan (Courtesy)

Two Israeli settlers were arrested and another five were detained over their suspected involvement in the killing of a young Palestinian man in the West Bank, police said Saturday.

The prime suspect who allegedly opened fire was hospitalized after he was injured in clashes.

The second arrested individual formerly worked as an aide for a lawmaker from the far-right Otzma Yehudit party. Both are residents of the illegal West Bank outpost of Migron.

“As of now, two Israelis were arrested for questioning and five were detained,” a police spokeswoman said in a statement Saturday morning.

On Friday night, 19-year-old Qusai Jamal Matan was fatally shot in the neck in the West Bank town of Burqa, close to Ramallah, according to Palestinian health officials and Israeli defense sources. He was buried on Saturday.

According to the PA’s official Wafa news agency, the clashes broke out after settlers attacked the village, leading residents to confront them.

Mourners carry the body of 19-year-old Palestinian Qusai Jamal Matan, during his funeral in the town of Burqa in the West Bank on August 5, 2023. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)

The Israel Defense Forces said that according to witnesses, clashes had erupted adjacent to Burqa after Israeli settlers from a nearby outpost herded sheep in the area. Palestinians from the town then approached the settlers to distance them from their lands, when a verbal confrontation erupted.

At one point, both sides began hurling stones at each other, the IDF said, adding that Palestinians also launched fireworks.

“During the confrontation, Israeli civilians shot toward the Palestinians. As a result of the confrontation, a Palestinian was killed, four others were injured, and a Palestinian vehicle was found burnt,” the IDF said in a statement Saturday.

One Israeli settler was wounded by stones hurled at him in the town, and he was taken by medics to the Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem for further treatment, police said.

He was later arrested over suspicions he opened fire and killed Matan, but remained hospitalized with a head injury.

IDF troops, police officers, and members of the Shin Bet security agency arrived at the scene only after the deadly incident and launched an investigation.

Amid concerns of further violence, the IDF on Saturday declared the area of the deadly incident a closed military zone, and stationed a number of soldiers in it.

The office of Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh demanded that the perpetrators “not be allowed to escape punishment.”

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid said in a statement that the West Bank was becoming a battleground between Jewish and Arab terrorists.

“The hilltop youth are turning Judea and Samaria into a battleground between the terror of Jewish terrorists and the terror of Arab terrorists,” he tweeted. “It endangers the settlements, which are mostly law-abiding citizens, endangers our soldiers, and harming innocents is against every Jewish or democratic value. The backing they get from within the most extreme coalition in the history of the state [amounts to] a diplomatic attack.”

Netanyahu “should severely condemn the violence that harms national security, the IDF and the settlements,” Lapid said.

A screenshot of video purporting to show Israeli settlers rampaging in a Palestinian village near Ramallah on August 4, 2023. (screen capture: Twitter)

Hussein al-Sheikh, the Palestinian Authority’s civil affairs minister and secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee, called for Otzma Yehudit to be designated as a “terrorist party.”

“We call on the international community and international institutions to consider the party of the terrorist Itamar Ben Gvir as a terrorist party due to its personal and partisan history of inciting the killing of Palestinians,” al-Sheikh tweeted Saturday.

Friday’s incident came after several other Palestinians were killed in disputed circumstances involving settlers. In June, a Palestinian was shot dead during a settler rampage in Turmus Ayya that followed a deadly attack and in February a Palestinian was killed while settlers rioted in Huwara after a terror shooting.

Also in February, the Shin Bet joined police in investigating the killing of a Palestinian man near Qarawat Bani Hassan in the West Bank, allegedly by Israeli settlers.

There has been a rise in settler violence in recent months, with the UN on Friday reporting there have been nearly 600 attacks on Palestinians and their property over the past six months.

The riots have been condemned by a number of politicians, including some from the hardline right-wing coalition, but there has been little clear-cut condemnation from settlement leaders.

The government has pledged to hold those behind the settler rampages accountable. Two suspects have since been charged in the Turmus Ayya rioting in June. Five Israelis have been held under administrative detention for their involvement.

Hundreds were filmed taking part in the attacks.

Times of Israel staff and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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