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25 settler attacks on Palestinians reported since teen died in police chase

As Jerusalem and West Bank boil with protests over police’s alleged role in death of Ahuvia Sandak, Yesh Din rights group reports increase in assaults

Demonstrators holds placards showing Ahuvia Sandak as they protest against his death in a car crash during a police chase last week, at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on December 29, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Demonstrators holds placards showing Ahuvia Sandak as they protest against his death in a car crash during a police chase last week, at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on December 29, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Muataz Qasrawi said he was at home with his family on Thursday night when rocks began crashing through the windows.

“Around eight settlers emerged from the olive trees. They threw stones into our house. We have small children living here: a week-old baby, a young girl, a boy who’s only six months old, a ten-year-old,” Qasrawi, a resident of the West Bank village of Huwarra, said in a phone call with The Times of Israel.

In photos released by the Yesh Din rights group, shattered glass can be seen across the floor of Qasrawi’s house, including in a cradle for a small child.

Yesh Din, a left-wing rights group that documents settler violence in the West Bank, has recorded 25 attacks against Palestinians and their property since an Israeli teenager was killed in a car chase with police after allegedly throwing stones at Palestinians.

A Palestinian family in Huwarra surveys the impact of a stone-throwing attack allegedly committed by settlers on December 31, 2020 (Credit: Muataz Qasrawi)

Qasrawi’s security cameras caught Thursday night’s incident on video: masked men can be seen hurling volleys of stones at his house. Qasrawi said that he was certain they were settlers.

“There is absolutely no doubt. It’s clear in the footage,” Qasrawi said.

The Israel Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to Yesh Din, settlers threw stones and blocked Palestinian traffic on Thursday night at several sites across the West Bank, including junctions close to Yitzhar, Shiloh and Homesh. At several points over the past week, the rights group reported, Palestinian cars have had their windows smashed in by settlers throwing stones at West Bank intersections.

In one incident reported by the rights group, a large group of settlers entered the West Bank village of Kifl Haris and proceeded to throw stones at some of the homes. A 12-year-old girl was lightly wounded when a stone smashed through a window and hit her, before Israeli troops arrived on the scene to expel the settlers, Yesh Din said.

Israeli security sources told reporters anonymously on Wednesday that ״the police are losing control” of the situation, even as “violence [by settlers] against Palestinians and security forces has reached new heights.”

Violent protests by extremist settlers have rocked the West Bank and Jerusalem since the murder of Esther Horgen in mid-December. Horgen, a mother of six and resident of the West Bank settlement of Tel Menashe, was killed while walking in the Reihan forest close to where she lived.

A 36-year-old Palestinian resident of Tura, near Jenin, was subsequently arrested in connection with Horgen’s death. His wives and brother were later said to have been arrested as well as potential accomplices.

Israeli security services reported 13 incidents of stone-throwing by settlers against Palestinians in the days immediately following Horgen’s murder.

But tensions in the West Bank hit a boiling point in earnest after 16-year-old Ahuvia Sandak was killed in a police chase after allegedly hurling stones at Palestinians last Monday. Ahuvia Sandak, a resident of Bat Ayin, was fleeing Border Police in a car with three other hilltop youth when his car flipped over, killing him.

Demonstrators holds placards showing Ahuvia Sandak as they protest against his death in a car crash during a police chase last week, outside the national police headquarters in Jerusalem, on December 26, 2020. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

According to police, Sandak’s group fled police before losing control of their vehicle. Sandak’s defenders view his death as execution by cop: they allege that the police car hit his vehicle from behind, causing it to run off the road.

Police are said to be probing negligent homicide suspicions against the four other passengers, even as the Justice Ministry’s Police Internal Investigations Department has questioned the officers involved in the incident over their conduct.

Sandak’s death has ignited nine days of near-nightly protest in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Demonstrators have thrown stones, attacked buses, and blocked major thoroughfares. In turn, police have responded forcefully, including apparently beating a protester in one widely-circulated clip.

As of Thursday night, some 275 arrests have taken place at the demonstrations, according to statements released by police. No clear number has been given for people charged with violence at the rallies.

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