Suspects in Huwara settler rampage out of custody; IDF vows to probe ‘lawlessness’

3 detained over rioting sent to house arrest and 5 released, authorities say, with no new arrests in mob violence; Halevi says manhunt for West Bank gunmen continues

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

Cars and homes are torched by settlers in the West Bank town of Huwara on February 26, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Cars and homes are torched by settlers in the West Bank town of Huwara on February 26, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

All Israeli suspects detained during the Sunday night rioting in the West Bank town of Huwara have been released, law enforcement officials said Tuesday. Military chief Herzi Halevi meanwhile vowed to investigate the “lawlessness.”

Hours after a shooting attack that killed brothers Hallel Yaniv, 21, and Yagel Yaniv, 19, from the settlement of Har Bracha, hundreds of extremist settlers descended on the Palestinian town in the northern West Bank, the site of the terror attack, and set fire to homes, storefronts and cars.

Security forces failed to contain the violence for hours despite early warnings of a planned violent protest in Huwara. Troops were also preoccupied with searching for the gunman who killed the Israeli brothers, as well as dealing with settlers who had defiantly returned to the evacuated Evyatar outpost.

Eight suspects were detained by Israeli troops and police officers on Sunday night over their alleged involvement in the rampage, which saw one Palestinian killed, scores injured and dozens of Palestinian homes and cars set on fire.

Six were released Monday morning, including one to house arrest, and the last two were released on Tuesday morning to house arrest, Israel Police spokesman Dean Elsdunne told The Times of Israel. As of Tuesday afternoon, three Israeli suspects were under house arrest.

There were no other known arrests following the riots.

Military chief Herzi Halevi vowed to “thoroughly investigate” the riots.

“The grave events of lawlessness in Huwara after the severe attack will be thoroughly investigated,” Halevi said in remarks provided by the Israel Defense Forces.

Palestinians inspect a damaged house and scorched cars in the town of Huwara, near the West Bank city of Nablus, February 27, 2023. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Additionally, Elsdunne said police had no information about officers being involved in the killing of a Palestinian man, Sameh Aqtash, in nearby Za’tara during the rioting on Sunday night.

A military official told The Times of Israel on Sunday that Israeli soldiers were not involved in the shooting that killed Aqtash, 37. His family has claimed he was shot by Israeli forces.

Halevi also condemned several incidents of violence by settlers against Israeli troops amid the riots in Huwara and other areas of the West Bank.

The IDF said a group of settlers who hurled stones at Israeli forces in the West Bank attempted to ram an officer with a vehicle on Monday night. In a separate incident on Sunday, the IDF said a senior officer was assaulted by a group of settlers near the West Bank settlement of Rimonim.

Halevi also vowed to capture the gunmen who carried out a deadly shooting attack near the West Bank city of Jericho on Monday that killed American-Israeli Elan Ganeles. The IDF chief visited the 417th Regional Brigade base in the Jordan Valley for an assessment of the attack.

He said the army was “investigating and studying” the recent string of shooting attacks in the West Bank.

“We will thwart terror of any kind, and we will continue to use all operational and intelligence means in order to capture the terrorists,” Halevi said.

IDF chief Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi (left) walks alongside Col. Meir Biderman, the commander of the 417th Regional Brigade at the brigade’s base in the northern Jordan Valley, February 28, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

The attacker who carried out the deadly shooting in Huwara, killing the Yaniv brothers, was believed to be hiding out in one of the Palestinian towns in the area. The gunmen who killed Ganeles fled toward the Jericho area after police attempted to engage them.

The military has bolstered the West Bank with four additional infantry battalions following the attack and subsequent settler rioting in Huwara.

In recent months, Palestinian gunmen have repeatedly targeted military posts and troops operating along the West Bank security barrier, Israeli settlements and civilians on the roads.

Israeli security forces at the scene of a shooting attack in the Jordan Valley, near the West Bank city of Jericho, February 27, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)

Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians have been high for the past year, with the IDF conducting near-nightly raids in the West Bank amid a series of deadly Palestinian terror attacks.

A string of Palestinian attacks in Jerusalem in recent weeks left 11 people dead and several more seriously hurt.

Over 60 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the year, most of them while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces, but some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under circumstances that are being investigated.

There has also been a noted rise in settler violence toward Palestinians in recent months.

Most Popular
read more: