ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 144

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IDF condemns 'serious incidents of violence'

Palestinian killed in unclear circumstances as settlers rampage in West Bank town

12 wounded in attack on Turmus Ayya; police say officers shot suspect who allegedly fired at troops; dozens also storm Palestinian village of Urif; no reports of arrests

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

Palestinian homes and cars are seen on fire following a settler attack in the West Bank town of Turmus Ayya, June 21, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Palestinian homes and cars are seen on fire following a settler attack in the West Bank town of Turmus Ayya, June 21, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Hundreds of Israeli settlers tore through the Palestinian town of Turmus Ayya on Wednesday afternoon, setting homes, cars, and fields on fire and terrorizing residents shortly after Israeli victims of a Palestinian terror shooting in the West Bank were buried.

Hours later, dozens of settlers also attacked the West Bank village of Urif. The incidents came after riots against other Palestinian communities on Tuesday.

The Palestinian Authority health ministry said one Palestinian was killed in Turmus Ayya and another 12 were wounded during the attack by settlers and clashes with Israeli troops. At least four were wounded by gunfire, including one listed in serious condition, the ministry said.

The slain man was named as 27-year-old Omar Qattin, who residents said was a father of two small children and worked as an electrician for the local municipality.

Police said an officer opened fire and hit at least one Palestinian who was suspected of shooting at security forces during clashes.

It was unclear if Qattin was the one who was shot by police, though Palestinian witnesses said the slain man was nowhere near Israeli forces when he was shot. It was also unclear who shot the other four Palestinians.

“He was just standing there, innocent, he is such a kind-hearted kid. He had no stones, he was totally unarmed, he was at least half a mile away from the military,” said Khamis Jbara, his neighbor. “He works from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. He is a peaceful man.”

Qattin was also claimed by the Hamas terror group as a member in a brief statement calling him a “hero martyr.” Hamas, however, did not say he was a member of its armed wing, indicating Qattin may have only been politically affiliated with the group.

Qattin also had permanent residency status in the US and members of his family have American citizenship.

The rioting in the town near Ramallah came after settler vigilantes rampaged in several Palestinian towns in the northern West Bank on Tuesday night, following the deadly shooting attack at a gas station near a settlement in the area.

The rampages appeared to be a grim repeat of an incident some termed a “pogrom” earlier this year, after another deadly Palestinian shooting attack.

Footage posted to social media from Turmus Ayya on Wednesday afternoon showed cars and homes ablaze. Troops were seen trying to eject settlers as black smoke rose above the town.

The Israeli military said it condemned the “serious incidents” of settler violence in Turmus Ayya, but made no mention of several Palestinians reportedly shot.

“Israeli citizens set fire to Palestinian property a short time ago in Turmus Ayya. Security forces entered the town to put out the fires, prevent friction and collect evidence,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

The IDF said the settlers had all left the town, and police had launched an investigation.

“The IDF condemns these serious incidents of violence and destruction of property. Incidents like these prevent the IDF and the security forces from focusing on their main mission, protecting the security of the citizens of the State of Israel and preventing terror,” the military added.

People stand by torched vehicles, set ablaze by Israeli settlers, in the town of Turmus Ayya near the West Bank city of Ramallah on June 21, 2023. (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

Police said members of the special Yasam patrol unit were called to the scene to secure firefighters who were attempting to put out the blazes. At one point, Palestinians began to riot and hurl stones at the officers, police said.

“During the riot, Yasam officers operating at the scene identified a shot fired toward them… in response, a Yasam officer who felt his life was in danger fired a precise shot at a rioter suspected of shooting,” a police spokeswoman said, adding that the suspect was hit.

Police said the incident was under investigation.

There were no reports of arrests.

Turmus Ayya Mayor Lafi Adeeb said some 60 cars and 30 homes were partly or totally burned in the settler attacks on the town. He claimed that around 400 settlers had carried out the attack.

“The attacks intensified in the past hour even after the army came,” he said.

Jordan’s foreign ministry slammed the settler violence, calling on the international community to intervene to provide Palestinians protection.

Egypt’s foreign ministry urged an “immediate cessation” of settler attacks on Palestinian villages in the West Bank, blasting Israeli authorities for failing to intervene in Turmus Ayya and other Palestinian villages where settlers torched dozens of buildings and cars.

“Egypt affirms its complete rejection of acts of intimidation and collective punishment targeting Palestinian citizens,” its foreign ministry said.

The rampage came shortly after funerals were held for two of four Israeli victims of a Tuesday afternoon shooting attack at a gas station in the West Bank. The other two were buried late Tuesday.

Later on Wednesday, over 100 settlers from the Yitzhar area attacked residents in the nearby village of Urif, according to Palestinian media and footage from the scene.

Israeli medics said at least four settlers were treated after being hit by stones in the area.

One of the Hamas-affiliated terrorists in Tuesday’s attack was shot dead at the scene by an armed Israeli civilian, while the second fled and was killed some two hours later by special forces.

Israeli security forces at the scene of a deadly terror attack near the West Bank settlement of Eli, June 20, 2023. (Flash90)

Hours after the shooting, Israeli settlers streamed through several Palestinian towns, trying to torch property and smashing cars with stones, according to locals, with some of the assaults captured on video.

In Huwara, a mob of settlers torched cars and damaged Palestinian property. Some also opened fire on Palestinians, according to Palestinian media, sparking intense clashes, with soldiers dispatched to restore calm.

The town was the scene of a rampage earlier this year in which settlers set dozens of homes and cars on fire, following a deadly Palestinian shooting attack on two Israeli brothers. At least one Palestinian was killed under murky circumstances and the incident was widely condemned among Israelis and by the international community, though some members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline cabinet appeared to back the vigilantes.

Fires seen in the village of Luban al-Sharkiyeh in the West Bank on June 20, 2023. (screen captgure: Twitter; Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

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

Since the beginning of the year, Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank have killed 24 people, including 17-year-old Nachman Mordoff, 17-year-old Elisha Anteman, 21-year-old Harel Masood and 64-year-old Ofer Fayerman, who were killed Tuesday.

According to a tally by The Times of Israel, 129 West Bank Palestinians have been killed during that span, most of them during clashes with security forces or while carrying out attacks, but some were uninvolved civilians and others were killed under unclear circumstances.

Times of Israel staff and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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