Palestinian town targeted by vandals in apparent hate crime

Palestinian town targeted by vandals in apparent hate crime

‘Revenge’ and ‘Regards from Bat Ayin’ daubed in Qabalan, as tensions between settlers, Palestinians, and security forces remain high

Vandalism discovered in the West Bank town of Qabalan on November 7, 2019 reads 'revenge' (courtesy of local municipality)
Vandalism discovered in the West Bank town of Qabalan on November 7, 2019 reads 'revenge' (courtesy of local municipality)

Hebrew-language “revenge” slogans were daubed in a Palestinian town in the West Bank early Thursday and at least one car was damaged in an apparent hate crime southeast of Nablus.

“Regards from Bat Ayin” and “Closed military zone” were spray-painted in Qabalan and discovered early Thursday, according to photographs from the scene. Bat Ayin is a settlement near Jerusalem, where police earlier this week said they encountered stone-throwing by settler youths. The “closed military zone” is a reference to military activity around an outpost near Yitzhar.

The incident Thursday comes amid an uptick of violence against Palestinians and Israeli security forces by hard-line settler youths.

Last Friday, Palestinians in Yatma woke up to find their northern West Bank village targeted by vandals in the second apparent hate crime in the area in three days.

Like an attack a week earlier in the central West Bank village of al-Bireh, some 30 cars had windows smashed or tires slashed and the suspects graffitied Hebrew slogans referencing an outpost neighborhood of Yitzhar whose residents have carried out violent attacks on Israeli troops. “Closed military zone,” and “Regards from the Yitzhar hilltop,” were found spray-painted on vehicles, along with Stars of David, in photos provided by the Yatma municipality.

Vandalism against Palestinians and Israeli security forces are commonly referred to as “price tag” attacks, with their perpetrators claiming that they’re the retaliatory  of Palestinian violence or government policies seen as hostile to the settler movement.

Despite the dozens of hate crimes targeting Palestinians and their property over the past year, arrests of perpetrators have been exceedingly rare. Rights groups lament that convictions are even more unusual, with the majority of charges in such cases being dropped.

Much of the recent violence has centered around the settlement of Yitzhar.

Residents of Yitzhar said tensions between them and security forces began to rise last month when the head of Central Command signed off on an administrative order barring a resident of Kumi Ori, an outpost neighborhood of Yitzhar, from the West Bank. A defense official said the 21-year-old man has been involved in violence against soldiers and Palestinians. He denies the claim.

After Yitzhar’s secretariat subsequently cut off ties with the IDF’s top brass, security forces arrested two residents of Kumi Ori — one for lighting a Palestinian field on fire and another for threatening an army brigade commander. One of the suspects claimed to have been assaulted by the arresting officer.

Days later, security forces reported coming under attack while patrolling the area. One officer was lightly injured in the incident, which involved 30 young far-right activists known as hilltop youth, who hurled stones at the soldiers and slashed the tires of their jeep.

Several other incidents of settler violence have occurred in the area since.

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