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Masked settler extremists assault Palestinians and left-wing activists in West Bank

Group descending from illegal outpost hurls stones, beats people planting trees, sets car alight; multiple people wounded, no arrests; settler leaders say they’re ‘horrified’

An Israeli activist, bloodied from a beating allegedly by Jewish extremists in the West Bank near the outpost of Givat Ronen, on January 21, 2022. (Courtesy: Yesh Din)
An Israeli activist, bloodied from a beating allegedly by Jewish extremists in the West Bank near the outpost of Givat Ronen, on January 21, 2022. (Courtesy: Yesh Din)

Jewish extremists attacked Palestinians and left-wing Israeli activists in Burin in the West Bank Friday morning with clubs and stones, wounding at least six and burning a car, according to police, witnesses and footage from the scene.

The Israeli army and police were called to the scene after the attack began, but arrived after the perpetrators had apparently fled. A police spokesperson said officers were investigating the incident.

Israeli activists affiliated with Rabbis for Human Rights said they’d arrived at Burin, near Nablus, on Friday morning, to help Palestinian farmers plant trees on land inside the boundaries of the village.

About an hour and a half later, a group said to be of 10 or more masked figures descended from the nearby illegal Israeli settlement outpost of Givat Ronen, wielding clubs and stones. At least six Israelis were injured during the attack, witnesses and medics said. It was not clear how many Palestinians were hurt.

“They threw rocks through the windows of the car, poured gasoline on one of the cars, lit it on fire, and then turned their attention to throwing rocks and hitting any volunteer they could get their hands on,” said Daniel Roth, an American-Israeli activist who works with Rabbis for Human Rights.

Six Israelis wounded by the extremist assault were hospitalized in Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva. Some sustained head injuries, and another apparently had a broken hand. Roth said a settler hurled a large rock at his head, which he managed to block with his arm.

A spokesperson for Yitzhar and the surrounding illegal outposts denied any knowledge of the incident.

The Yesha Council, which represents much of the settler leadership, issued a rare condemnation of the violent assault. The council deemed the attack “aberrant.”

Saying it was “horrified” by images from the scene, the council said that “such grave conduct is against the values of the people of Israel and harms the settlement movement. It is not our path. We call on authorities to investigate the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

A firefighter douses the flames in an Israeli car after it was allegedly set on fire by Jewish extremists in the West Bank near the outpost of Givat Ronen on Friday, on January 21, 2022. (Courtesy: Yesh Din)

Israeli security officials have warned that violence by Jewish extremists in the West Bank has spiked in recent months. Shin Bet officials told The Times of Israel in late December that Jewish extremist violence had increased by 50 percent over the past year.

Nonetheless, the internal Israeli political debate over the phenomenon has been divisive. Right-wing Israeli politicians have denounced the characterization of the attacks as “settler violence,” charging that it is an attempt to besmirch all Jews living in the West Bank.

“There are marginal elements in every community and they should be dealt with using all means, but we must not generalize about an entire community,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in mid-December.

Much of the violence is allegedly perpetrated by Jewish extremists who live in illegal outposts. Deputy minister Yair Golan (Meretz) called them “subhuman” in early January, sparking backlash. He later apologized for his choice of words.

Following Friday’s attack, Golan sarcastically tweeted: “Okay, so they’re not subhuman. What do you want to call them, then?”

Roth, who regularly attends protests in the West Bank, called the assault “a serious act of terrorism.”

“It was a very, very hard day. A lot of people are going to be dealing with this for a long time, both Israeli activists and Palestinians from Burin, who face this violence regularly,” said Roth.

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