Israeli settler vigilantes tore through several Palestinian towns in the West Bank following a deadly shooting attack on a nearby settlement Tuesday night, setting cars and fields on fire, vandalizing homes and terrorizing residents in a grim repeat of an incident some termed a pogrom earlier this year.
Palestinians in Luban a-Sharqiya, Huwara, Beit Furik, Burin and other towns south of Nablus in the northern West Bank said carloads of settlers rampaged through the villages Tuesday night, hurling stones and setting cars, fields, homes and other property ablaze.
Three Israelis were arrested over the attacks, Israel’s Ynet news reported.
Nablus official Ghassan Daghlas said 34 Palestinians were injured, most of them from tear gas, and at least 140 vehicles set ablaze, including an ambulance.
The rampage was set off by an attack hours earlier in which two Palestinian gunmen opened fire on a hummus restaurant and gas station in the settlement of Eli, killing four Israelis, including two 17-year-old boys, and injuring four others. One of the 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.
Hours after the attack, Israeli settlers streamed through Palestinian towns, trying to torch property and smashing cars with stones, according to locals, with some of the assaults captured on video.
ISRAELI SETTLERS – Nablus: Israeli settlers set fire to a Palestinian ambulance in Huwwara village S of Nablus City. pic.twitter.com/E7AoEY9NGA
— Local Focus – Security Alerts (@LocalFocus1) June 20, 2023
A few settlers also opened fire at Palestinians who had ventured out of their homes to confront them, said Daghlas. Dozens of Palestinians were attacked and wounded by rocks throughout the Nablus governorate, he said, including a Palestinian journalist struck in the face.
Videos shared online showed giant fires tearing through the countryside, and pictures revealed extensive property damage.
Update: still burning pic.twitter.com/eGD2T5L6Ue
— Yesh Din English (@Yesh_Din) June 20, 2023
Photos showing some of the property damages caused by Israeli settlers S of Nablus City. pic.twitter.com/SnKpQzw0Hj
— Local Focus – Security Alerts (@LocalFocus1) June 20, 2023
In Luban a-Sharqiya, which sits near Eli, Palestinians said settlers attacked a 12-year-old boy returning home on his bike, pointing a gun at him and leaving him severely injured, the official Wafa news outlet reported.
Several buildings in the town, were torched, including part of a gas station and another store, with other structures also suffering broken windows and other vandalism. Cars were also set on fire, along with the yards of homes, according to Wafa, as were fields throughout the region.
In Huwara, a mob of settlers torched cars and damaged Palestinian property. Some also opened fire on Palestinians, according to Wafa, sparking intense clashes with soldiers dispatched to restore calm.
The town was the scene of a rampage earlier this year in which settlers set dozens of homes and cars on fire, following a deadly shooting attack on two Israeli brothers. At least one Palestinian was killed under murky circumstances and the incident was widely condemned among Israelis and by the international community, though some members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline cabinet appeared to back the vigilantes.
Following the shooting Tuesday, dozens of settlers also marched to the Yitzhar settlement to demand a harsh response by the IDF to the attack. Soldiers sought to clear the roads and one of them reportedly fired into the air after the settlers refused to cooperate.
Later, a group of settler leaders, including Religious Zionism MK Zvi Sukkot and Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, traveled to the illegal outpost of Evyatar, demanding the government authorize building on the West Bank hilltop in response to the attack.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant was convening with the country’s army chief and other top security officials to discuss a response to the shooting. Netanyahu’s far-right coalition partners have ramped up pressure on the government to crack down harshly on the wave of Palestinian violence.
“The time has come to launch a military operation in Judea and Samaria,” National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir told reporters from Eli, using the biblical term for the West Bank. “To return to targeted assassinations from the air, to bring down buildings, to erect roadblocks, to expel terrorists, and to finish passing the death penalty for terrorists law.”
From the opposition, Yisrael Beytenu chief Avigdor Liberman also called for broad action against terror leaders. “The time has come for the government of Israel to wake up and to launch a wide military operation in Judea and Samaria, and not just against bottom feeders and junior field operatives, but against the perpetrators of the terrorist wave who sit in Gaza and enjoy the immunity that Netanyahu granted them.”
The head of the Yesha Council, the Israeli settlers’ umbrella organization, echoed the calls.
“We cannot continue to absorb these blows and hope the wave of terrorism will just pass,” said Shlomo Ne’eman.
Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians have been elevated for the past year, with the military carrying out near-nightly raids in the West Bank, amid a series of deadly Palestinian terror attacks.
Since the beginning of the year, Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank have killed 24 people, including 17-year-old Nachman Mordoff, 17-year-old Elisha Anteman, 21-year-old Harel Masood and 64-year-old Ofer Fayerman, all killed Tuesday.
On Monday, six Palestinians were killed and nearly 100 were wounded in gun battles in Jenin. Eight IDF soldiers sustained light-to-moderate injuries in the clashes and as a result of a massive roadside bomb that was detonated next to an army vehicle.
Two more Palestinians were killed in Nablus early Wednesday when an explosive device they were preparing blew up prematurely, according to Palestinian reports.