‘Obey the law’: Netanyahu condemns Druze riots in Golan, West Bank settler rampages

In video statement, prime minister criticizes incidents of unrest, says rioting is unacceptable

Screen capture from video of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu making a video statement about violent rioting in the West Bank and on the Golan Heights, June 21, 2023. (GPO)
Screen capture from video of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu making a video statement about violent rioting in the West Bank and on the Golan Heights, June 21, 2023. (GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Israelis Wednesday to obey the law, on a day that saw settlers rampage through Palestinian towns in the West Bank and Druze demonstrators clash with police in the Golan Heights.

One Palestinian was reportedly killed in unclear circumstances as settlers rioted in response to a deadly terror attack the previous day. Four Druze were seriously injured during violent protests against a wind farm project in the north.

“There are days when you have to state the obvious — that Israel is a country governed by laws,” Netanyahu said in a video statement.

“The citizens of Israel are all obligated to respect the law. We will not accept riots either in the Golan Heights or in Judea and Samaria,” he said referring to the West Bank by its biblical name.

“I give full backing to the Israel Police and the security forces in their action to enact law and order,” he continued. “We will not accept any challenge against the police and the security forces in these places or anywhere.”

Hundreds of Israeli settlers tore through the Palestinian town of Turmus Ayya on Wednesday afternoon, setting homes, cars and fields on fire and terrorizing residents shortly after Israeli victims of a Palestinian terror shooting in the West Bank were buried.

The Palestinian Authority health ministry said one Palestinian was killed and another 12 were wounded during the attack by settlers and clashes with Israeli troops. At least four were wounded by gunfire, including one listed in serious condition, the ministry said.

The slain man was named by Palestinian media as 27-year-old Omar Qattin.

Police said members of the special Yasam patrol unit who were securing firefighters attempting to put out the blazes identified a suspect believed to have fired at them amid rioting by other Palestinians who were hurling rocks at the officers. An officer then shot the suspect, police said.

It was unclear if Qattin was the one who was shot by police, though Palestinian witnesses said the slain man was nowhere near Israeli forces when he was hit.

The rioting in the town near Ramallah came after settler vigilantes rampaged in several Palestinian towns in the northern West Bank on Tuesday night, following the deadly shooting attack at a gas station near a settlement in the area.

The Israeli military said it condemned the “serious incidents” of settler violence in Turmus Ayya, but made no mention of several Palestinians reportedly shot.

The IDF said the settlers had all left the town, and police had launched an investigation. There were no reports of arrests.

The rampage came shortly after funerals were held for two of four Israeli victims of a Tuesday afternoon shooting attack at a gas station in the West Bank. The other two were buried late Tuesday.

One of the Hamas-affiliated terrorists was shot dead at the scene by an armed Israeli civilian, while the second fled and was killed some two hours later by special forces.

Meanwhile, thousands of Druze residents of the Golan Heights rioted for a second day against the construction of a new wind farm near the town of Majdal Shams, burning tires and hurling rocks, fireworks and Molotov cocktails at massive police forces securing the area.

Twelve police officers were wounded. Four demonstrators were seriously injured, one of them from gunfire, along with three moderately and one lightly. The injured were taken to Ziv Medical Center in Safed, with three — including two of the seriously injured — transferred to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa.

Druze face off against police during a protest against the construction of a new wind farm near the Druze village of Majdal Shams, in the Golan Heights, June 20, 2023. (Ayal Margolin/Flash90)

The protests were held in several locations. Police said they had escalated into masses of people blocking roads and trying to storm the police position in the town of Mas’ade, and some using live fire.

Israel has made it a goal to veer its energy production increasingly toward cleaner technologies, with wind power an important component of those plans. The Energy Ministry has said the Golan Heights, with its high altitude and windswept valleys, is an optimal location for wind farms.

But the plan has angered Druze villagers who see the project as a threat to their agrarian way of life, an encroachment on ancestral lands and a solidification of what they view as Israel’s “occupation” of the territory.

They contend that the giant, soaring poles and the infrastructure needed to construct them will impede their ability to work their plots. They also say the turbines will disturb the almost sacred bond they feel to their land, which is passed down by generation and where families go for fresh air and green space.

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