A Palestinian man was shot dead by Israeli settlers in the West Bank on Saturday, Palestinian health officials and rights groups said. The Israeli army said it was aware of the case and said soldiers were not involved in the fatal shooting.
According to the Yesh Din rights group, “a large group” of armed settlers who arrived from the Havat Yair (Yair Farm) outpost attacked Palestinians on the outskirts of the nearby town of Qarawat Bani Hassan, for unclear reasons.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said one of the men, 27-year-old Methqal Abd al-Halim Rayan, was fatally shot in the head.
A spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces told The Times of Israel that troops were called to the scene following reports of clashes between settlers and Palestinians, adding that soldiers were not involved in the gunfire that killed the man.
“IDF forces arrived and responded with riot dispersal means and shooting in the air,” following the “violent friction between dozens of Palestinians and Israeli citizens,” the military said in a later statement.
The IDF said that it was aware of a Palestinian being reportedly shot by settlers and taken to a hospital, before troops had arrived at the scene.
A police spokeswoman told The Times of Israel that it had launched an investigation into the case, but could not confirm the reports as officers had not yet inspected the body or questioned any suspects allegedly involved.
???? الشهيد الشاب مثقال ريان الذي ارتقى برصاص مستوطن في قراوة بني حسان، قضاء سلفيت pic.twitter.com/3VQgxqzZM6
— الرسالة للإعلام (@Alresalahpress) February 11, 2023
In a statement, the chairman of the Samaria Regional Council Yossi Dagan said he “fully supports” the settler who “opened fire in the air” to protect the group of Israelis.
According to the council, some 25 settlers of the outpost went hiking in the area on Saturday morning, when they were allegedly attacked by Palestinians.
“Dozens of Palestinians approached the hikers throwing stones and [launching] fireworks at them,” the statement said. “Due to a fear for the lives of the hikers, one of the residents fired in the air,” it added.
“I fully support the citizen who defended his life and the lives of the hikers. The resident who opened fire acted correctly when he defended his life from a rioting and rampaging mob of terrorists,” Dagan said.
Footage from the scene showed Palestinians dragging Rayan into a car after he was shot.
Havat Yair was established illegally in 1999, but was legalized by authorities in 2021.
الشاب الجريح في قراوة بني حسان أصيب برصاص مستوطن خلال تصدي الأهالي لهم غرب سلفيت. pic.twitter.com/xM8BuEPxmc
— المركز الفلسطيني للإعلام (@PalinfoAr) February 11, 2023
The incident came at a time of rising violence in the region, with the Israeli military pressing on with an anti-terror offensive in the West Bank to deal with a series of attacks that left 31 people in Israel dead in 2022, and seven more in the shooting attack in Neve Yaakov last month.
The IDF’s operation has netted more than 2,500 arrests in near-nightly raids. It also left 171 Palestinians dead in 2022, and another 43 since the beginning of the year, many of them while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces, though some were uninvolved civilians.
There has also been a noted rise in settler violence toward Palestinians in recent months.