IDF soldiers were filmed Thursday protecting a handful of Israeli settlers as they took down a flag flying in a West Bank Palestinian town.
The footage showed Israeli soldiers distancing Palestinians from the area using a stun grenade and pointing their weapons at angry Palestinian onlookers on a main highway that is used by both Palestinians and Israelis.
The IDF told The Times of Israel in a statement Friday that its forces arrived at the scene after a violent confrontation had developed between settlers and Palestinians in Hawara.
The soldiers worked to keep the two sides apart, but a number of Palestinians began throwing stones at the forces, who responded with riot dispersal measures, the military said.
The incident took place in the Palestinian town of Hawara, through which the West Bank’s main Route 60 highway runs. Israelis use the road to travel to and from nearby northern West Bank settlements.
It is located in Area B of the West Bank, which is designated under Palestinian administrative control and Israeli security control under the Oslo Accords.
מבצע צבאי משותף של חיילים ומתנחלים להורדת דגל פלסטיני ביישוב חווארה .״ממשלת הורדת הדגל״. pic.twitter.com/VkPFjuuqnV
— Ahmad Tibi (@Ahmad_tibi) May 19, 2022
Israeli law does not bar Palestinian flags, but police regularly remove them from public spaces and seize them from Palestinians waving them in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem.
Such scenes are rarer in the West Bank though, particularly in Palestinian towns that are under the Palestinian Authority’s administrative control.
The Hawara segment of Route 60 is one of the few highways used by Israelis in the West Bank that doesn’t lie in Area C, which is under Israeli administrative and security control.
Israeli negotiators of the Oslo Accords deemed the security control that Hawara’s Area B-designation granted to be sufficient to protect settlers traveling through the town, although the nearby settlements have grown significantly in the three decades since. As a result, the government is currently paving a bypass road for settlers that goes around Hawara and is located in Area C.
Over the past two weeks, Israeli forces have been documented acting against those waving Palestinian flags. This was most notably seen during the funeral of slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during her funeral last week.
But Palestinians filmed similar scenes at the same highway segment in Hawara over the past several days, with soldiers — not settlers — being the ones to remove the flags from polls above the Palestinian town.