IDF spokesman says settler violence fueling Palestinian terrorism

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari says Jewish ‘nationalist terror’ in West Bank is spurring previously uninvolved Palestinian civilians to engage in attacks

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

IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari speaks to media near the Gaza border, May 10, 2023. (Emanuel Fabian/ Times of Israel/ File)
IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari speaks to media near the Gaza border, May 10, 2023. (Emanuel Fabian/ Times of Israel/ File)

Military spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Monday that violence by settlers in the West Bank against Palestinians was spurring more Palestinians to carry out acts of terror.

Speaking with the Ynet news site during a live broadcast, Hagari said that amid a rise in Palestinian terrorism in the West Bank in recent months, “there has also been an increase in nationalist crime and nationalist terror.”

“It’s terrorism, there’s no other way to say it,” said Hagari, the top spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces.

“Let there be no doubt, these things spur the civilian [Palestinian] population to terror. The nationalist crime and nationalist terror… push civilians in the Palestinian Authority who are not involved in terror — to terror,” he said.

“This phenomenon needs to be addressed. As soon as this phenomenon is avoided, there will be less terrorism in general,” Hagari added.

On Sunday morning, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported that the chief of the Shin Bet security agency, Ronen Bar, had warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Jewish terrorism against Palestinians in the West Bank was fueling Palestinian terrorism.

Several coalition lawmakers denounced Bar for the warning, asserting that “ideas of the left have reached the top” of the security agency and that senior defense officials do not know how to “distinguish between the enemy and your own people.”

Speaking with Ynet, Hagari also responded to the comments against the Shin Bet, saying: “It is very serious and it would have been better if they were not said… and it harms the security of the country.”

Illustrative: A screenshot from video of settlers firing at the West Bank village of Umm Safa on June 24, 2023. (Twitter video screenshot: Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Bar’s reported warning came days before a young Palestinian man was killed by Israeli settlers near Ramallah on Friday night, and a Palestinian terrorist from Jenin killed an Israeli patrolman in Tel Aviv on Saturday evening.

Recent months have seen a rise in settler violence, with the United Nations on Friday reporting there have been nearly 600 attacks on Palestinians and their property over the past six months.

The Israeli defense establishment recorded similar numbers during that period.

According to official data provided to The Times of Israel, there had been 680 incidents of stone-throwing or assault of Palestinians by settlers in the first six months of 2023, compared to 950 in all of 2022.

The defense establishment had also recorded 11 so-called “price tag” vandalism attacks in the first six months of 2023, compared to 18 in all of last year.

Additionally, there have been 25 serious attacks by settlers in the West Bank in the first six months of this year, according to the data. Those included arson attacks on homes and mosques in Palestinian towns and other serious incidents of violence, some ending with Palestinian casualties. In all of 2022, the defense establishment recorded 25 serious settler attacks against Palestinians.

Damage caused to Palestinian homes and cars by Jewish extremists in the West Bank village of Turmus Ayya, on June 21, 2023 (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

Friday’s deadly incident came after several other Palestinians were killed in disputed circumstances involving settlers this year.

The recent settler attacks have been condemned by the military, police, and a number of politicians, including some from the hardline right-wing coalition, but there has been little clear-cut condemnation from settlement leaders.

Some far-right lawmakers have indicated their support for the violent settlers, and have attacked defense officials.

Tensions have remained high across the region, amid a string of Palestinian terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank that have left 26 people dead and several others seriously wounded since the beginning of the year. According to a tally by The Times of Israel, 168 West Bank Palestinians have been killed during the same period — 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, including in cases by Israeli settlers.

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