Armed settlers opened fire during rampage in West Bank’s Turmus Ayya, footage shows

Masked men with assault rifles seen shooting during rioting in Palestinian town; five Palestinians said shot, including one fatally; police say one suspect was shot by officer

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

Armed Israeli settlers are seen opening fire in the West Bank town of Turmus Ayya, June 21, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter)
Armed Israeli settlers are seen opening fire in the West Bank town of Turmus Ayya, June 21, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter)

Settlers armed with assault rifles opened fire at Palestinians during an attack on the West Bank town of Turmus Ayya earlier this week, surveillance camera footage circulating online Friday showed.

Hundreds of Israeli settlers tore through the Palestinian town on Wednesday afternoon, setting homes, cars and fields on fire and terrorizing residents shortly after Israeli victims of a Palestinian terror shooting in the West Bank were buried. One Palestinian was killed in unclear circumstances during the rampage in Turmus Ayya.

The footage published Friday showed a group of masked settlers in Turmus Ayya hurling stones at local residents and homes, while smoke blows through the air. Two Palestinians are also seen throwing stones back at the group.

A gunshot rings out, as another group of settlers walks down the street, two of whom are seen armed with assault rifles. The pair are seen opening fire at least three more times — twice toward the area where the two Palestinians were, and once toward the direction they had come from.

The clip comes from a longer video showing the entirety of the settler attack on the town.

Palestinian health officials said one Palestinian was killed in Turmus Ayya and another 12 were wounded during the attack by settlers and in clashes with Israeli troops. At least four were wounded by gunfire, including one listed in serious condition, according to the Palestinian Authority health ministry.

The slain man was named as 27-year-old Omar Qattin, who residents said was a father of two small children and worked as an electrician for the local municipality.

Police said an officer had opened fire and hit at least one Palestinian who was suspected of shooting at security forces during clashes.

It was unclear if Qattin was the one who was shot by police, though Palestinian witnesses said the slain man was nowhere near Israeli forces when he was shot.

A police spokeswoman told The Times of Israel on Friday that it had no information on whether the Palestinian suspect shot by the police officer had died.

“He was just standing there, innocent, he is such a kind-hearted kid. He had no stones, he was totally unarmed, he was at least half a mile away from the military,” said Khamis Jbara, his neighbor. “He works from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. He is a peaceful man.”

A defense source told The Times of Israel on Friday that Israeli security authorities were unaware of gunfire by settlers during the rioting.

Settler vigilantes also rampaged in several Palestinian towns in the northern West Bank on Tuesday night following the deadly shooting attack at a gas station near a settlement in the area.

One of those towns was Huwara, the scene of a rampage earlier this year in which settlers set dozens of homes and cars on fire, following a deadly Palestinian shooting attack on two Israeli brothers. At least one Palestinian was killed at the time under murky circumstances and the incident was widely condemned among Israelis and by the international community, though some members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline cabinet appeared to back the vigilantes.

Hours after Wednesday afternoon’s attack in Turmus Ayya, dozens of settlers also attacked the West Bank village of Urif. Footage showed a masked settler in Urif ripping apart a book reported to be a Quran and throwing the pages on the ground at a mosque in the city.

Urif is the hometown of the Palestinian terrorists who carried out the shooting attack Tuesday.

And on Thursday, Palestinian media reported that settlers had attempted to attack the nearby village of Jalud. Footage on social media showed settlers and Palestinians hurling stones at each other in the area.

Three settlers were being held by the Shin Bet security agency in connection with the incidents, the right-wing legal aid group Honenu said late Thursday, adding that the suspects were being denied legal counsel.

Police did not report any arrests.

The military has condemned the attacks, stressing that the settler violence made it harder for the army to focus on its main mission — protecting Israeli civilians.

Sixteen Israeli suspects were detained in the aftermath of the rioting in Huwara in February, although all were released without charge. Rights groups have lamented that convictions in incidents of settler violence are incredibly rare, with the majority of charges in such cases being dropped.

Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians have been elevated for the past year and a half, with the military carrying out near-nightly raids in the West Bank, amid a series of deadly Palestinian terror attacks.

Since the beginning of the year, Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank have killed 24 people, including 17-year-old Nachman Mordoff, 17-year-old Elisha Anteman, 21-year-old Harel Masood and 64-year-old Ofer Fayerman, who were killed in the attack Tuesday.

According to a tally by The Times of Israel, 132 West Bank Palestinians have been killed during that span, most of them during clashes with security forces or while carrying out attacks, but some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under unclear circumstances.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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