Dozens of masked Israeli settlers threw stones at Palestinians in the south Hebron hills on Tuesday afternoon, smashing cars and injuring at least twelve Palestinians, including a three-year-old boy, Palestinian and Israeli witnesses said.
Some Palestinians threw stones back at the settlers as well, causing clashes to break out between the two sides, witnesses said. Three Israelis were injured as well, according to Hebrew media reports.
In videos from the scene, Israeli settlers can be seen breaking Palestinian car windows and hurling stones at Palestinian homes. The confrontations took place near the small Palestinian shepherding camp of al-Mufaqara, a cluster of homes that straddles two illegal Israeli West Bank outposts, Avigayil and Havat Maon.
A Palestinian and an Israeli settler were arrested by Israel Police officers. According to a police spokesperson, the Palestinian is suspected of attacking a soldier and violating a military order. The Israeli, a Havat Maon resident, is believed to have thrown stones and disobeyed soldiers’ instructions, the spokesperson said.
Palestinian witnesses said the Israeli military fired tear gas and sound grenades at them, but not the settlers. The army declined to respond to the allegations.
The injured boy, Mohammad Bakr Hussein, was allegedly struck in the head by a rock hurled by an Israeli settler as he slept in his house in al-Mufaqara. Hussein was evacuated to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba in moderate condition, a hospital spokesperson said.
Some 16 Palestinian cars were also damaged by settler stone-throwing, including one flipped entirely on its side. Houses were damaged, and a water tank punctured, said Oriel Eisner, 30, a left-wing Israeli-American activist.
“This was the worst attack we’ve seen for years. There isn’t a house they didn’t smash up,” said Palestinian resident Mahmoud Hussein, the boy’s grandfather.
וידאו נוסף מדרום הר חברון כעת pic.twitter.com/xOvJvmRC2z
— Or Heller אור הלר (@OrHeller) September 28, 2021
According to local resident Basil al-Adra, the clashes erupted after settlers attacked a Palestinian shepherd. Palestinians arrived on the scene to push back the settlers, prompting many more to arrive from other outposts in the area.
“It must have been around 100 settlers, from all the outposts near al-Mufaqara. They smashed windows, punctured car tires, entered homes. And they injured a child as they hurled stones into his home,” said al-Adra, who was present at the scene.
“We don’t even feel safe in our own homes anymore,” al-Adra added.
המתנחלים חוגגים וזה חג לא שמח בשטחים: עכשיו מתקפות אלימות של עשרות מתנחלים על כפרים פלסטינים ברחבי השטחים הכבושים – עם אלות, אבנים ונשק חם.
אדוני הארץ, מגובים בצבא הכיבוש ובתמיכת מממשלת הכיבוש, מפעילים טרור יומיומי על תושבים פלסטינים.
התעלמות בנט מהפלסטינים נותנת להם אור ירוק. pic.twitter.com/gaoh9j4CvZ
— MK Aida Touma-Sliman (@AidaTuma) September 28, 2021
Assault and vandalism by settlers against Palestinians and Israeli security forces in the West Bank are commonly referred to as “price tag” attacks. Perpetrators say thar they are retaliation for Palestinian violence or government policies seen as hostile to the settler movement.
Israeli authorities rarely arrest Jewish perpetrators. Rights groups lament that convictions are even more unusual, with the vast majority of charges in such cases being dropped.
Hebron Hills council head Yochai Damari said in a statement that the Israelis who had engaged in the clashes were “guests, not [local] residents, who say stones were thrown at them.”
“Our way is not violence. Not against soldiers and not against Arabs,” Damari said. He added that Palestinians had been known to provoke clashes through “rioting and collaborating with anarchists.”
According to Damari, Palestinians also threw stones at the car of local Israeli private security guard who works in the nearby outpost of Havat Maon.
Once Eisner got word of the incident on Tuesday afternoon, he immediately called the police, who arrived about 45 minutes to an hour later, he said. Eisner, al-Adra and Hussein attested that they had seen a masked settler wield a gun and fire live ammunition into the air.
The incident sparked condemnation by left-wing Israeli parliamentarians.
“The lords of the land, backed by the occupation army and with the support of the occupation government, carry out daily terrorism on Palestinian residents,” wrote Joint List MK Aida Touma-Suleiman on Twitter.