Israeli security forces entered the West Bank city of Jenin Friday to remove a monument to a terrorist who masterminded a notorious 1974 massacre of Israeli school children, sparking clashes in which six Palestinians were wounded, the army and a local mayor said.
The Jenin municipality last month named a square after “martyr” Khaled Nazzal, who planned the Ma’alot massacre in which Palestinian terrorists murdered 22 school children and four adults. It also erected a monument in Nazzal’s honor.
The move sparked a harsh response from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who accused Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of lying about seeking peace and of “poisoning” the minds of young Palestinians.
Israel reportedly warned the PA that if the monument to Nazzal was not taken down, the IDF would enter Jenin to remove it.
Following the ultimatum the monument was briefly removed, but last week it was reinstalled under an agreement between Abbas’s Fatah party and the mayor of Jenin.
Early on Friday morning, an IDF spokeswoman said Israeli forces “removed a memorial erected to commemorate the terrorist Khaled Nazzal.”
During clashes that broke out afterwards, two people were shot with live ammunition and four with rubber bullets, Mohammed Abu Ghali, head of the Jenin municipality, told AFP. One of the young men was in serious condition after being shot in the chest, he said.
The incident came as the US has been trying to get Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table. Israel says Palestinians glorifying the murder of Israelis is one of the biggest impediments to peace.
Trump, in a keynote speech at the Israel Museum on his May visit to Israel and the West Bank, called on both sides to put aside the “pain and disagreements of the past” and declared his belief that both Israeli and Palestinian leaders are “ready to reach for peace.”
Netanyahu has repeatedly expressed his deep skepticism of the possibility of reaching a peace deal at present, but has at the same time voiced his commitment to working with the US on the matter.
The PA and its ruling Fatah party have a long history of lionizing “martyrs” — a term given to any who dies at the hands of Israel, whether civilians or terrorists, with the latter often characterized as soldiers of the “resistance.”
The UN and Norway recently pulled support for a West Bank women’s center after it was revealed it had been named after a female terrorist. Numerous institutions and public spaces have been named in similar fashion.
In December Fatah honored the “most outstanding operations” against Israel — referencing terror attacks that killed 100 civilians. In October it praised a gunman who killed two Israelis in Jerusalem.
Palestinian television, including children’s programming, is rife with anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli messages.
Israeli officials have long complained that incitement and support from the PA in the form of praise, honorifics, and cash payments to the families of Palestinians killed during attacks encourages further terrorism.
AFP contributed to this report.