Israeli settlers and Palestinians clashed on Wednesday evening close to a new illegal outpost established by Israel in the northern West Bank.
The sides presented conflicting accounts of the altercation, with Palestinian media outlets first reporting that settlers had attacked homes in the village of Burqa adjacent to the Homesh outpost. Shortly afterward, a Homesh spokesperson issued a statement saying that “dozens” of Palestinians had marched toward the settlement, threw stones at the IDF soldiers and settlers present, and set fires close by.
The Homesh statement added that soldiers forced the Palestinians back to Burqa.
The IDF did not immediately issue its own readout on the incident.
The new outpost consists of a makeshift yeshiva that was illegally transferred overnight Sunday from privately owned Palestinian land on an adjacent hilltop. The transfer was required in order to pave the way for the government to legalize Homesh amid longstanding pressure from the settler lobby. No building permits were issued for the transfer, and the security establishment expressed its opposition, fearing that formalizing settler presence in the flashpoint area would only lead to more friction with Palestinians.
However, the IDF was overruled by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich — a junior minister in charge of settlement affairs in Gallant’s office — and ordered the military to allow the building transfer to go through.
Several clashes between settlers and Palestinians have taken place in the days that followed.
On Tuesday night, settlers hurled stones at the village of Jalud, lightly injuring seven Palestinians and damaging three homes, according to the Haaretz daily. The IDF arrived at the scene and used riot dispersal measures against the Palestinians. No arrests of Israelis took place, as is rarely the case in instances of settler violence.
בורקה- מתנחלים בונים את בית הספר מחדש ליד מבנה הישיבה ב״חומש״ על אדמות בורקה בחסות צבא הכיבוש. pic.twitter.com/Nv2ZhijJBh
— רסאלה (@RISALA_2) May 30, 2023
Also on Wednesday, IDF soldiers were filmed removing a Palestinian flag from the Palestinian village of Umm al-Kheir in the southern West Bank, drawing criticism from former Meretz MK Mossi Raz, who tweeted, “there is no democracy together with occupation. No democracy [should] fight against flags.”
The transfer of Homesh was harshly criticized by the State Department, which issued a separate statement on Friday expressing alarm over a “rising trend of extremist settler violence,” while also condemning a recent attempt by a Palestinian to stab an Israeli settler in the southern West Bank.
חיילי צה"ל נשלחים להסיר דגלים בכפר פלסטיני בשטחים הכבושים.
אין דמוקרטיה עם כיבוש.
אין דמוקרטיה שנאבקת בדגלים pic.twitter.com/XLN7TUERZu
— Mossi Raz | מוסי רז | موسي راز ???? (@mossi_raz) May 31, 2023
Since the beginning of the year, Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank have killed 20 people and left several more seriously hurt.
At least 114 West Bank Palestinians have been killed during that span, including the alleged attacker on Friday. Most of them were killed while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces, but some were uninvolved civilians or were killed under circumstances that are being investigated.
Jeremy Sharon, Emanuel Fabian and Jacob Magid contributed to this report.