Palestinians: West Bank ambulance driver killed trying to reach injured in settler raid

Unconfirmed reports claim clashes started when residents of nearby settlement threw rocks at Palestinian villagers near Nablus; unclear whether fire came from troops or settlers

A Palestinian ambulance is seen in the West Bank on April 20, 2024. (Photo by Zain JAAFAR / AFP)
A Palestinian ambulance is seen in the West Bank on April 20, 2024. (Photo by Zain JAAFAR / AFP)

An ambulance driver was killed in the West Bank on Saturday on his way to evacuate people wounded during an alleged violent attack by residents of nearby Israeli settlements, according to the Palestinian Authority health ministry.

Hebrew media reported that a group of settlers had arrived at the Palestinian town of As-Sawiya near the settlement of Eli on Saturday afternoon and began throwing stones at Palestinians who retaliated by doing the same.

Shortly after the clashes began, Israel Defense Forces troops arrived and began firing at the rioters. Some reports in Hebrew media said that the 50-year-old ambulance driver was killed by IDF fire, while other said that he was shot by armed settlers.

There was no immediate comment on the incident from the military.

A resident of As-Sawiya told the Haaretz newspaper that the army only arrived at the scene after a group of Palestinian residents chased the settlers away. He said that the soldiers and settlers stood together on a hill some 500 meters from the Palestinians when the troops opened fire.

“Nothing like this has ever happened before where settlers attack [us] and the soldiers help them,” the man was quoted as saying. “The police showed up about an hour later, and if an Israeli had been injured, they would have shown up within a second.”

The PA health ministry said the driver, named as Muhammad Awad, was killed by Israeli gunfire as he was making his way to transport people injured during the attack. A medic who was with the driver when he was shot claimed that he was shot by Israeli soldiers.

Settler violence in the West Bank spiked in the last week after the body of 14-year-old Benjamin Achimeir was found last weekend after he had gone missing. Security forces said the Israeli teen had been murdered in a terror attack.

Following the discovery of Achimeir’s body, Jewish settlers entered the village of al-Mughayyir, northeast of Ramallah, and set houses and cars ablaze. Palestinian medics said one man was killed and 25 others were injured in the rampage.

Violent incidents continued throughout the week with another two Palestinians killed in a confrontation with settlers on Monday evening. Palestinian authorities and the IDF said the two victims had been shot by settlers.

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

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

A Palestinian man stands amid the damage caused by fire, in the aftermath of an Israeli settler attack on the West Bank village of Duma, on April 17, 2024. (Photo by Zain JAAFAR / AFP)

The week’s violence culminated in the US announcement of a third round of sanctions against settler individuals including Benzi Gopstein – leader of the extremist right-wing Lehava group and a close ally of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir.

Under Gopstein’s leadership, Lehava and its members have been involved in acts or threats of violence against Palestinians, often targeting sensitive or volatile areas.

Two entities, the Mount Hebron Fund and Shlom Asiraich, were also sanctioned for their roles in establishing fundraising campaigns on behalf of Yinon Levi and David Chai Chasdai, two recently US-designated extremists who engaged in violent activities targeting Palestinians and Israeli peace activists in the West Bank.

IDF troops operate in the West Bank in an undated image published on April 16, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Settler violence spiked after the October 7 massacre carried out by the Hamas terror group in southern Israel, in which some 1,200 people were killed and 253 were taken hostage, but violence was already on the rise before then, according to watchdogs.

Since October 7, troops have arrested some 3,700 wanted Palestinians across the West Bank, including more than 1,600 affiliated with Hamas. According to the Palestinian Authority health ministry, more than 450 West Bank Palestinians have been killed in that time.

In the same period, at least 13 Israelis, among them two members of security forces, have been killed by Palestinians in the West Bank, according to an Israeli tally.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

Most Popular
read more: