Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh urged the International Criminal Court on Saturday to file arrest warrants against “those who call to erase Palestinian villages,” appearing to refer to Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s call to “wipe out” the West Bank town of Huwara.
The minister’s remarks on Huwara — where hundreds of settlers rampaged last month hours after two Israeli brothers were shot dead in a terror attack — sparked international headlines and led the Biden administration to weigh refusing him the entry visa he needed in order to attend an Israel Bonds conference in Washington.
Since making the incendiary declaration, Smotrich has several times sought to walk it back. The remarks cast a shadow over his recent trip to the United States, where no government officials held talks with him and dozens of major Jewish groups refused to meet him.
Another far-right lawmaker, Otzma Yehudit MK Zvika Fogel, called for “burning villages” in response to the shooting attack. He was questioned this week by police for alleged incitement to terror over the comments.
In Saturday’s statement, Shtayyeh said that “the Israeli killing machine does not stop, every day, every hour and every minute, without consideration for international law at all.
“In everything that has to do with Ukraine, the international court works at record speed, but as far as the Palestinians are concerned, it is nowhere to be found,” he added, seemingly in reference to the ICC’s decision to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for alleged war crimes in Ukraine.
The remarks by Shtayyeh came as Israeli, Palestinian, American, Egyptian and Jordanian officials were set to convene Sunday in Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh for a summit aimed to help foster regional calm ahead of the sensitive Ramadan period, which begins next week.
Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians have been high for the past year, with the IDF conducting near-nightly raids in the West Bank amid a series of deadly Palestinian terror attacks. Those tensions have ramped up even further in recent weeks, featuring a cycle of deadly Israeli raids and Palestinian revenge attacks, as well as an uptick in settler violence.
Palestinian terror attacks in Israel and the West Bank in recent months have left 14 Israelis dead and several more seriously hurt.
At least 85 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the year, most of them while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces, but some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under circumstances that are being investigated.
Over the past year, Gaza-based groups — notably Islamic Jihad — have launched rockets at Israel in response to members being killed or arrested in the West Bank.
Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.