Extremist settlers again attack truck and injure driver in W. Bank; wound 3 soldiers

Driver in moderate condition; troops lightly injured while confronting rioters, provide medical assistance to driver; US weighing sanctions against those attacking aid

A truck is seen on fire after being torched by far-right rioters in the central West Bank, March 17, 2024 (Video screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
A truck is seen on fire after being torched by far-right rioters in the central West Bank, March 17, 2024 (Video screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Israeli settler extremists attacked a truck in the central West Bank and assaulted its driver early Friday for the second night in a row, due to their mistaken belief it was delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza.

The settlers torched the vehicle and moderately injured the driver. An army force that intervened was also attacked, and three soldiers were lightly injured, including two officers.

In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces said the settlers attacked the Israeli driver of the truck at a junction outside the Kochav Hashahar settlement, northeast of Ramallah, before setting the vehicle ablaze. Troops called to the scene provided medical treatment to the driver while working to distance the dozens of assailants. The IDF said the extremists responded with violence toward the soldiers.

The IDF said it would seek legal action against the rioters.

Separately, at Tapuah Junction south of Nablus, dozens of rioting settlers protesting aid to Gaza hurled rocks at Palestinian cars. Police forces used tear gas and stun grenades against them.

Haaretz reported that one of the Israelis was lightly wounded after being hit by a Palestinian car. The military believes it was an accident as the vehicle attempted to flee the mob.

Two US officials told The Times of Israel Thursday night that the Biden administration was looking into sanctioning extremist Israelis involved in the recent spate of attacks targeting humanitarian aid convoys for Gaza.

The sanctions would be levied through the executive order signed by US President Joe Biden in February, which allowed the Treasury Department to designate Israelis involved in violent activity in the West Bank, the officials say.

The attacks in the West Bank largely started last month when Israel agreed to expand the aid route from Jordan to ensure that more assistance gets into Gaza.

The far-right group Tzav 9 has led many of the protests in both the West Bank and within Israel proper, aiming to block aid trucks from reaching Gaza. The group argues that the assistance is being co-opted by Hamas — a charge the US denies. Israel has also made a point in recent months of stressing the amount of aid it is allowing into Gaza, indicating that it, too, doesn’t believe the assistance is for Hamas.

Tzav 9 also argues that the aid should be used as leverage to secure the release of the Israeli hostages in Gaza, but rights groups say doing so would violate international law.

Since the attacks on aid convoys in the West Bank are a relatively new phenomenon, it is unclear whether the administration will be able to put together the legal cases necessary for justifying sanctions against involved individuals by the time the US issues its fourth batch of settler sanctions in the coming weeks, one of the US officials says.

Individual members of the Israeli security forces are believed to be tipping off the far-right activists regarding the location of the aid trucks once they’re en route to Gaza, enabling their interception.

Early on in the war, when protests and blockings were happening regularly near Israel’s Kerem Shalom and Nitzana crossings into Gaza, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir signaled to police, who are under his jurisdiction, to take a lax approach to the crackdown, an Israeli official said.

While the US has thus far avoided including Ben Gvir as part of its sanctions, it began targeting individuals in his inner circle in the last batch, designating Benzi Gopstein, the head of the anti-miscegenation Lehava group.

The second US official said this strategy could well continue in subsequent rounds of sanctions.

One potential candidate is Ben Gvir’s chief of staff Chanamel Dorfman, who has a long history of involvement in extremist activity, including in the West Bank.

Wednesday saw extremists attack another commercial truck traveling in the West Bank, mistaking it for a convoy carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza.

The vigilantes lit a fire in the road at the Givat Asaf Junction on Route 60, dumped the truck’s contents onto the pavement and assaulted the Palestinian driver.

In protest of the government allowing humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip during Israel’s war against Hamas, far-right activists have blocked off roads to prevent aid convoys from entering the Strip and recently have begun attacking the trucks themselves.

On Monday, right-wing extremists spilled the contents of a truck onto the road to prevent aid from entering Gaza. Four people were arrested during the fracas.

Two trucks from the convoy were later set on fire, according to multiple media reports.

The Tzav 9 activist group, which seeks to halt transfers of humanitarian supplies into Gaza as long as Israelis are held hostage there, claimed credit for blocking the shipment as it passed through the Tarqumiyah checkpoint, in the Hebron Hills region between the southern West Bank and Israel.

An aid convoy heading to the Gaza Strip, attacked by protesters in the Hebron Hills region, May 13, 2023. (Video screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Trucks have been transferring aid originating in Jordan through the West Bank en route to Gaza, where Israel is warring against the Palestinian terror group Hamas.

Demonstrators oppose the delivery of aid into Gaza as long as 132 people are still being held hostage by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza, all but four of them seized during the devastating October 7 attack on Israel led by Hamas that killed some 1,200 people and opened the war.

The activists have not affected aid deliveries in a significant way. Most aid to Gaza does not move through the West Bank.

Israel has been working to increase humanitarian aid deliveries to Gaza amid pressure from the international community, including the United States, due to fears of potential famine in various parts of the Strip.

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