Settlers hurl stones at Palestinians, attack soldiers and police; five arrested

Officials say forces tried to stop Jewish Israelis from attacking Palestinian-owned cars on highway near al-Mughayyir; one suspect kicked soldier and maced police officer

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

Settlers run from a soldier hurling a tear gas grenade near al-Mughayyir in the West Bank, February 28, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter)
Settlers run from a soldier hurling a tear gas grenade near al-Mughayyir in the West Bank, February 28, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter)

The military on Tuesday said a group of settlers assaulted soldiers and police officers who attempted to stop them from hurling stones at Palestinian vehicles in the West Bank, the latest in a series of violent incidents.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, troops were dispatched to the scene on the Route 458 highway near the town of al-Mughayyir after receiving a report of stones being hurled at Palestinian-owned cars.

“When forces arrived at the scene, they identified a number of suspects, some of them masked, hurling stones at a Palestinian truck,” the IDF said.

The IDF said the troops fired into the air, but the suspects refused to disperse.

The troops then used tear gas against the group, and in response, one suspect kicked a soldier and maced a police officer with pepper spray, according to the IDF.

Police added that another suspect punctured the tires of the vehicle belonging to the officer.

Five suspects were detained and handed over to police for further questioning.

Both the IDF and police said they viewed attacks on security forces “with severity.”

Settlement groups said the group had gathered in the area after Palestinians had hurled stones at Israeli-owned cars, wounding a young girl. The Rescuers Without Border emergency service said the toddler did not require hospitalization after being lightly hurt by glass shrapnel.

Police said four Palestinian minors were detained for hurling stones that wounded the toddler. The teens, who did not have a driver’s license, initially attempted to flee in a car that had been taken off the road, police said.

Later in the day, another two Israeli women were lightly hurt after Palestinians allegedly hurled stones at their vehicle in the West Bank town of Huwara, the service said.

According to Rescuers Without Borders, the cousin of terror victims Hallel and Yagel Yaniv — who were killed in Huwara on Sunday — was driving through the town when he was attacked.

Two hitchhiking Israelis in the backseat were lightly hurt by glass fragments, the service said.

A car damaged in a stone-throwing attack in Huwara, the West Bank, on February 28, 2023. (Courtesy: Rescuers Without Borders)

The incident near al-Mughayyir comes amid a series of violent incidents by settlers against Israeli troops in the West Bank, and following extreme settler rioting in the Palestinian town of Huwara, following the killing of two Israelis in a shooting attack there.

The IDF said that on Monday, a group of settlers who hurled stones at Israeli forces in the West Bank attempted to ram an officer with a vehicle. In a separate incident on Sunday, the IDF said a senior officer was assaulted by a group of settlers near the West Bank settlement of Rimonim.

The incidents came during and following a violent rampage carried out by Israeli settlers in the West Bank town of Huwara on Sunday evening. They set fire to Palestinian homes and cars, hours after a terror attack in the same town claimed the lives of two Israeli brothers.

The settler riots saw one Palestinian killed in circumstances that remain unclear, scores injured and dozens of Palestinian homes and cars set on fire.

Security forces failed to contain Sunday’s violence for long hours despite early warnings of a planned violent protest in Huwara. Troops were also preoccupied with searching for the gunman who killed the Israeli brothers, as well as dealing with settlers who had defiantly returned to the evacuated Evyatar outpost.

Eight suspects were detained by Israeli troops and police officers on Sunday night over their alleged involvement in the rampage,

Six were released Monday morning, including one to house arrest, and the last two were released on Tuesday morning to house arrest, Israel Police spokesman Dean Elsdunne told The Times of Israel. As of Tuesday afternoon, three Israeli suspects were under house arrest.

There were no other known arrests following the riots.

Military chief Herzi Halevi vowed to “thoroughly investigate” the riots.

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

Additionally, Elsdunne said police had no information about officers being involved in the killing of the Palestinian man, Sameh Aqtash, in nearby Za’tara during the rioting on Sunday night.

A military official told The Times of Israel on Sunday that Israeli soldiers were not involved in the shooting that killed Aqtash, 37. His family has claimed he was shot by Israeli forces.

The military has bolstered the West Bank with four additional infantry battalions following the attack and subsequent settler rioting in Huwara.

Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians have been high for the past year, with the IDF conducting near-nightly raids in the West Bank amid a series of deadly Palestinian terror attacks.

There has also been a noted rise in settler violence toward Palestinians in recent months.

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