Settler leaders protest outside PM’s office, demand West Bank op to fight terror

Regional council head urges deadly reprisals for attacks, following the example of early left-wing governments; Border Police officer lightly hurt in settler riot

Gush Eztion Regional Council head Shlomo Ne'eman (center) speaks during a press conference with Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan (right) and Binyamin Regional Council head Yisrael Gantz, outside the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, August 22, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Gush Eztion Regional Council head Shlomo Ne'eman (center) speaks during a press conference with Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan (right) and Binyamin Regional Council head Yisrael Gantz, outside the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, August 22, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The heads of West Bank regional councils on Tuesday protested outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, calling for tougher action in the region amid a spike in deadly terror attacks.

The demonstration came a day after a 42-year-old mother of three was killed and a man in his 40s was seriously wounded when their vehicle came under fire from a passing car on the Route 60 highway, prompting calls from far-right ministers in the government for the military to impose widespread roadblocks in the West Bank.

“The situation is intolerable,” the settler leaders said in a joint statement. “We demand a change in the approach to security. The continued rise in murderous terror incidents shows the current approach has failed and should be changed quickly.”

Yossi Dagan of the Samaria Regional Council, Yisrael Gantz of the Binyamin Regional Council, Shlomo Ne’eman of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, and Yochai Damri of the Mount Hebron Regional Council, among others, participated in Tuesday’s protest.

“We are demanding the government launch an in-depth and prolonged military operation to stop the terror as they did in the past,” Dagan told the Kipa news site outside the PMO.

“I call on the right-wing government to learn from the governments of Mapai how to fight terror,” he said, referencing the predecessor to the present-day center-left Labor party, which governed the country during its early years and oversaw deadly reprisal operations in response to cross-border attacks.

IDF soldiers guard at a checkpoint in the West Bank city of Hebron, August 22, 2023 (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

Dagan demanded the military launch a broad operation, impose roadblocks, and seal off towns where terrorists come from.

“We are very ashamed that we need to sit here [protesting] in front of the Prime Minister’s Office of a completely right-wing government. We support this government, we mobilized thousands of volunteers so that this government would be established, and we want it to be strong,” Dagan stated.

But, he warned, the government had better “come to your senses” and fulfill its responsibility to keep Israeli citizens safe.

In a separate statement, Dagan blamed the wave of terror on the Palestinian Authority, citing its policy of paying salaries to terrorists’ families.

“The swamp is the PA, and the mosquitos are Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Unfortunately, in recent years, Israel is trying to catch the mosquitos and not drain the swamp, or in the language of the establishment: ‘to strengthen the Palestinian Authority,'” he said.

Gantz similarly slammed the PA, declaring, “There is no lone-wolf terrorist; there is a program that incites and pays salaries to those who murder the citizens of the State of Israel.”

Ne’eman labeled the PA an “enemy” and urged the government to “strengthen the settlements.”

Batsheva Nigri, who was killed in a terrorist attack near the West Bank city of Hebron on August 21, 2023. (Courtesy)

Palestinian shooting, stabbing, and car-ramming attacks in Israel and the West Bank have left 29 people dead and several others seriously wounded since the beginning of the year. Also this year, rocket fire from the Gaza Strip killed two people during a round of hostilities in May, and an attack by an Egyptian policeman on the border in June left three soldiers dead.

Last year, 27 Israeli civilians and foreigners were killed in terror attacks committed by Palestinian or Arab Israeli terrorists in Israel or the West Bank. Another three soldiers were killed in attacks directed against troops, and one police commando was killed during clashes with Palestinian gunmen in a West Bank operation.

Some 12 hours after Monday’s attack, settlers rioted at Beitin Junction near Ramallah, throwing rocks at Palestinians and burning tires of Palestinian vehicles.

The rioters then threw rocks and used pepper spray on Border Police officers and Fire and Rescue personnel who arrived at the scene.

A Border Police officer was lightly injured in the incident. No Palestinians were hurt.

Israeli security forces arrested two Palestinians early Tuesday morning on suspicion of carrying out the attack that killed Batsheva Nigri, a resident of the West Bank settlement of Beit Hagai who worked as a kindergarten teacher in nearby Efrat.

The attack came two days after a Palestinian terrorist killed two Israeli men, a father and son, while they were doing errands in the northern West Bank town of Huwara. Shay Silas Nigreker, 60, and his 28-year-old son Aviad Nir were shot to death at a carwash on Saturday afternoon. The attacker remains at large.

Violence has surged across the West Bank over the past year and a half, with a rise in Palestinian shooting attacks against Israeli civilians and troops, near-nightly arrest raids by the military, and an uptick in revenge attacks by extremist Jewish settlers against Palestinians.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (right) are briefed near the scene of a terror shooting near the West Bank city of Hebron, August 21, 2023. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

The IDF said Monday it was bolstering the West Bank with an additional infantry battalion and two companies, following the two recent deadly terror attacks.

Speaking from the scene of the shooting attack on Monday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said the ongoing terror wave was being directed by Iran.

Also Monday, the head of the military’s Central Command, Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fox, said that Israel was in the middle of a major terror wave “the likes of which we have not seen in a long time.”

“The IDF and security forces are operating daily in every region to foil terror,” Fox told reporters at the military’s Judea Regional Brigade headquarters near Hebron.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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