Israeli activists evacuated from Ramallah after car is set on fire

Peace group downplays incident, says 9 were guests and ‘at no point felt threatened’; army to investigate incident

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

A car on fire (illustrative photo: Shah rukh khan/Wikimedia Commons/public domain)
A car on fire (illustrative photo: Shah rukh khan/Wikimedia Commons/public domain)

Nine Jewish Israeli citizens were evacuated from Ramallah unharmed after local residents set their car on fire on Wednesday night, the army said.

There were no injuries reported in the incident.

The group of Israelis, members of the peace group “Two States, One Homeland,” deliberately entered the city, the Israel Defense Forces said, despite a military order to stay out of West Bank towns located in Palestinian Authority-controlled Area A.

The organization said in a statement its Jewish members had joined Palestinian activists to hold an iftar meal — the fast-breaking dinner held at the end of each day on Ramadan.

The army stated that the activists were attacked with rocks by local residents and one of their vehicles was set alight.

But while initial news reports painted the nine activists’ extraction as a lucky escape, the group downplayed the incident, saying, “It appears one of our vehicles was set on fire and was slightly damaged while it was empty. The Palestinian security services quickly took control of the incident and helped us file a complaint. Despite the reports, at no point did we feel threatened and our Palestinian friends were horrified by the incident.”

It added: “What most frightens those who wish to maintain the current status quo is Palestinians and Israelis talking and working together.”

The nine Israelis will be questioned by security forces to determine why they violated military orders, the IDF said.

One of the Israelis in the group was journalist Meron Rapaport, who now works with the organization.

“Two States, One Homeland” is a movement that calls for a European-style confederation between Israel and a future state of Palestine, that would allow citizens from both sides of the conflict to live in either country but retain their original nationality. The Israeli side of the group is comprised largely of Jewish settlers.

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Israelis have bitter memories of the fate of those who enter Ramallah unprotected. At the beginning of the Second Intifada, two reservists, Vadim Nurzhits and Yossi Avrahami, accidentally entered the city. Once inside Ramallah, they were taken by Palestinian security officers to the city’s police station.

Aziz Salha waving his bloody hands after the lynch of 2 IDF reservists in Ramallah in 2000 (photo credit: screen capture, YouTube)
Aziz Salha waving his bloody hands after the lynch of 2 IDF reservists in Ramallah in 2000. (screen capture, YouTube)

Local residents stormed the building and viciously murdered the two reserve soldiers, in what would later become known as the “Ramallah lynching.”

A picture from the scene, of Aziz Salha showing his bloody hands to a cheering crowd, remains one of the most recognizable images of the period.

Earlier this year, two IDF soldiers got lost while driving through the West Bank and accidentally entered the Qalandiya refugee camp. Their vehicle was also firebombed, forcing them to flee.

The incident prompted a large skirmish between Israeli forces and local residents, which resulted in one Palestinian being killed and dozens of injuries on both sides.

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