Settler extremists are sowing terror, Huwara riot was a ‘pogrom,’ top general says

Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, who oversees West Bank, also warns future clashes could end in Israeli fatalities; report says settler violence has doubled under new government

Head of the IDF Central Command, Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, during a TV interview on February 28, 2023. (Screenshot: Channel 12; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Head of the IDF Central Command, Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, during a TV interview on February 28, 2023. (Screenshot: Channel 12; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

The Israeli general in charge of troops in the West Bank said Tuesday that vigilante settlers who rampaged through a Palestinian town in the West Bank Sunday night had carried out a “pogrom” that caught the military off-guard.

The Head of the IDF Central Command, Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, also told Hebrew-language media that he was worried clashes between soldiers and settlers would eventually lead to Israelis being killed, and accused the Jewish extremists of “spreading terror.”

Fuchs said troops had been prepared for small-scale disturbances Sunday night following the deadly Palestinian terror attack near Nablus earlier in the day in which two Israeli brothers were shot dead, expecting groups of settlers to protest at junctions and throw stones at Palestinian cars.

Instead, hundreds of people ran riot through Huwara and other nearby towns, leaving one Palestinian dead and several others badly injured, as well as torching homes and cars, and killing sheep. Two days later, no one is still held over the unprecedented rampage.

“What happened in Huwara was a pogrom carried out by law-breakers,” Fuchs told Channel 12 news in an interview. “We were not ready for a pogrom on the scale of dozens of people with flammable material and the means to set it on fire, heading to 20 or more places — as well as confronting soldiers and commanders and police at the junction — and setting random Palestinian homes and cars on fire.”

“We were not prepared for that many people, how they came, the scale, the force of the violence they used, and the planning they had carried out,” he added.

Settlers pray the evening service, as cars and homes torched by settlers burn in the West Bank town of Huwara on February 26, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

While taking responsibility for the army’s inability to stanch Palestinian terror, he slammed vigilantism among settlers.

“This is not a case of ‘taking the law into their own hands’” — as many government figures have been referring to it — “because law-abiding people do not spread terror among a population and don’t throw stones at people randomly,” he said.

He noted that a fight between settlers and soldiers Monday night could have turned deadly, and said he worried that a future such incident could lead to bloodshed.

“Last night, we almost had fatalities in a friendly fire incident in which [IDF troops] opened fire [when they felt under threat by a group of extremist settlers],” he said.

Fuchs also said that security coordination with the Palestinian Authority was indeed currently frozen, as Ramallah has announced.

Illustrative: Israeli soldiers speak with Israeli settlers in the West Bank town of Huwara near Nablus on February 27, 2023. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP)

Meanwhile, a report Tuesday night said that incidents of settler violence have doubled in quantity since the new government took office in late December, and that the Shin Bet security service was warning settler leaders and rabbis against further violence and lawlessness in an attempt to prevent the situation from further spiraling out of control.

According to Channel 12, the last two months have seen 190 incidents classified as nationalistically motivated Jewish violence, twice as much as in the equivalent period a year earlier.

The network said there were tensions within the government regarding the response to a wave of Palestinian terror attacks, which have left 14 Israelis dead in the past few weeks.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir speaks during a Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on February 15, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The report said several ministers are demanding more aggressive actions, despite the looming holy Muslim month of Ramadan, which in recent years has become a time of heightened tensions and violence. Three unnamed ministers told the network that Israel’s pledge to the US, Jordan and Palestinians at a summit in Aqaba earlier this week not to advance new construction in settlements for several months was “unacceptable.”

The network added that National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir — a far-right cabinet member who has been pushing for a large-scale anti-terror operation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem — held a “very tense” meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday in which he complained that he was being left out of important security discussions and that not enough weight was being given to his positions.

The report said Netanyahu promised Ben Gvir he would ensure greater inclusion moving forward.

Most Popular
read more: