Military: Settlers attempt to ram officer in West Bank, hurl stones at troops

Soldiers return fire at car near Shavei Shomron, the latest in a series of violent incidents by Jews against Israeli forces and Palestinians

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

IDF troops conduct scans in the West Bank town of Huwara for a terrorist who killed two Israelis, February 26, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
IDF troops conduct scans in the West Bank town of Huwara for a terrorist who killed two Israelis, February 26, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

The military on Monday night said a group of settlers who hurled stones at Israeli forces in the West Bank allegedly attempted to ram an officer with a vehicle, the latest in a series of violent incidents.

The Israel Defense Forces issued a statement saying it condemned “the serious incidents of violence” against Israeli troops in the West Bank, which came amid riots by settlers in a Palestinian town near Nablus, following the killing of two Israelis in a shooting attack there.

According to the military, during the incident Monday, a number of settlers hurled stones at Israeli troops near the settlement of Shavei Shomron.

“An Israeli citizen tried to run over an IDF officer who was at the location. The force responded by shooting at the vehicle’s wheels, and the vehicle fled,” the army said.

In a separate incident on Sunday night, the IDF said a senior officer was assaulted by a group of settlers near the West Bank settlement of Rimonim.

According to the IDF, the attack occurred after the commander of the Binyamin Territorial Brigade, Col. Eliav Elbaz, exited his jeep to prevent settlers from hurling rocks at Palestinian-owned vehicles passing through the Rimonim Junction, northeast of Jerusalem.

As Elbaz and some of his soldiers attempted to intervene to stop the rock-throwing, he was allegedly attacked by the youths.

“The suspects verbally assaulted the officer and pushed him back,” the IDF said in the statement.

Police detained two of the suspects, but they have since been released.

Settlers pray the evening service, as cars and homes they torched burn in the West Bank town of Huwara on February 26, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

“The IDF condemns any manifestation of violence, certainly against soldiers and the security forces. The IDF supports the brigade commander and his soldiers who work day and night for the safety of the citizens of Israel and the residents of [the West Bank],” the military said.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant also issued a statement, saying “the attack of IDF soldiers by Jewish rioters is an unacceptable and very serious act.”

“There will be no tolerance for those who violate of the law,” he said.

The incidents came during a violent rampage carried out by Israeli settlers in the West Bank town of Huwara on Sunday evening. They set fire to Palestinian homes and cars hours, after a terror attack in the same town claimed the lives of brothers Hallel Yaniv, 21, and Yagel Yaniv, 19.

In Huwara, Palestinian media said some 30 homes and cars were torched. Photos and videos on social media showed large fires burning throughout the town of Huwara — a town just south of Nablus — and lighting up the sky.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said one man was shot dead by Israeli fire during the riots in the town of Za’tara, south of Huwara and close to the settlement of Kfar Tapuah. The Palestinian Red Crescent medical service said two other people were shot and wounded, a third person was stabbed, and a fourth was beaten with an iron bar.

A military source said Israeli troops were not involved in the shooting that killed 37-year-old Sameh Aqtash, though his family accused the IDF of shooting him dead.

Incidents of vandalism against Palestinians and Israeli security forces are commonly referred to as “price tag” attacks, with perpetrators claiming they are retaliation for Palestinian violence or government policies seen as hostile to the settler movement.

Arrests of perpetrators are rare, and rights groups lament that convictions are even more unusual, with the majority of charges in such cases being dropped.

Reports of nationalist crimes against Palestinians in the West Bank surged in recent weeks, following several terror attacks.

Last Monday, police detained five settler activists on suspicion of involvement in the torching of a Palestinian car and a subsequent clash with IDF troops. On Saturday, Israeli settlers torched a number of Palestinian-owned cars in the village of Burin, close to Nablus.

Israeli settlers hurl stones and set fire to cars in the village of Burin, in the northern West Bank on February 25, 2023. (Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)

The IDF was still searching for the gunman who carried out the Huwara attack, as well as the gunmen who killed another Israeli man near Jericho on Monday.

The military has bolstered the West Bank with an additional four infantry battalions.

Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians have been high for the past year, with the IDF conducting near-nightly raids in the West Bank against the backdrop of a series of deadly Palestinian terror attacks.

However, the nightly raids have been on pause since a major raid in the West Bank on Wednesday, ahead of and following a Jordan-hosted meeting between Israeli and Palestinian officials on Sunday whose goal was to restore calm to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Ash Obel contributed to this report.

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