ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 143

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Palestinians say settlers hurled stones, torched cars in northern West Bank town

IDF says troops break up ‘friction’ in Burin, near Nablus; no arrests immediately made; one Palestinian reportedly hurt

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Israeli settlers hurl stones and set fire to cars in the village of Burin, in the northern West Bank on February 25, 2023. (Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)
Israeli settlers hurl stones and set fire to cars in the village of Burin, in the northern West Bank on February 25, 2023. (Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Israeli settlers torched a number of Palestinian-owned cars in a northern West Bank village on Saturday, Palestinian media reports and an Israeli rights group said.

Footage published by Palestinian media outlets from the village of Burin, close to Nablus, showed two cars burning.

The Yesh Din rights group said around a dozen settlers arrived from the nearby illegal outpost of Givat Ronen and first began hurling stones at a home in Burin, before soldiers arrived.

It published a clip showing several masked figures on a hill hurling stones toward Burin.

Yesh Din said the settlers fled after soldiers arrived, only to come back to Burin from another direction and began hurling stones at homes and cars again, before carrying out the arson.

The rights group said at least one Palestinian was hospitalized after being hit in the leg by a stone hurled by the settlers.

Near the site of the burning cars, Israeli soldiers and two civilian security officers were seen arguing with locals as a fire truck waited to pass through to handle the blaze.

Yesh Din accused the army and the security coordinators for the nearby settlements of Har Bracha and Yitzhar of deliberately blocking the way for the Palestinian fire truck.

Palestinians carry a man injured during clashes with Israeli settlers in the village of Burin in the northern West Bank on February 25, 2023. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

A military spokesperson told The Times of Israel that troops were dispatched to the scene to break up “friction between settlers and Palestinians.” The spokesperson said the soldiers did not use any riot dispersal means to disperse the crowd.

Local security officials said some 40 Palestinians from Burin also hurled stones back at the group of settlers.

There was no immediate comment from police on the alleged arson, and there were no reports of arrests made.

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

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

Reports of nationalist crimes against Palestinians in the West Bank surged in recent weeks, following several terror attacks.

On Monday, Israel Police detained five Jewish West Bank settler activists on suspicion of involvement in the torching of a Palestinian car and a subsequent clash with IDF troops.

Some 500,000 Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank. Among them are several hundred known as the “hilltop youth,” who seek to settle every corner of the biblical land of Israel.

Military officials say there are at most 150 hilltop youth involved in serious incidents of violence against Palestinians, but are worried about the increasing number of “mainstream” settlers supporting their actions or participating themselves.

The IDF recorded 838 incidents of settler violence in 2022, compared to 446 in 2021 and 353 in 2020.

Only 101 police investigations into settler attacks were opened last year, and just 28 indictments were filed.

The IDF said settler attacks in 2022 were no longer only coming from settlements or illegal outposts considered extremist, such as the Yitzhar area, but also from supposedly moderate areas.

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