Two Palestinians shot dead by settlers in clashes near West Bank village

IDF and police probing the violence that reportedly broke out after a settler was attacked; 3 Palestinians also reported injured in scuffles

File: Armed settlers gather on a hill overlooking the village of al-Mughayyir near Ramallah in the West Bank on April 13, 2024 (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)
File: Armed settlers gather on a hill overlooking the village of al-Mughayyir near Ramallah in the West Bank on April 13, 2024 (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Two Palestinians were shot dead, apparently by settlers in a clash near the northern West Bank village of Aqrabah on Monday, Palestinian witnesses and the Israeli military said.

Dozens of armed settlers attacked the Palestinian village on Monday evening, rights group Yesh Din said in a statement, sharing a video purporting to show a group of settlers running towards the Palestinian village, in the presence of Israeli security forces.

The Palestinian official news agency Wafa reported that settlers fired shots at a group of men while “protected by the Israeli occupation army,” and the Palestinian Red Crescent claimed that security forces detained three people who were injured in the incident.

The IDF and Israel Police said they were investigating the incident.

In a statement, the IDF said it had received reports of a Palestinian suspect who attacked a “Jewish shepherd” near the settlement of Gitit.

“A violent confrontation developed there between Palestinians and Israeli citizens. IDF forces were dispatched to the scene and worked to disperse the confrontation,” the military said.

“During the incident, two Palestinians were killed. From a preliminary investigation, it appears that [their killing] was not by IDF forces,” the statement added.

The Haaretz daily reported that the scuffle broke out in a Palestinian-owned agricultural area between Aqrabah and the settlement of Moshav Gitit after a settler was attacked. Stone throwing reportedly ensued between the Palestinians and the settlers.

Deadly settler violence has seen an uptick in recent days, following what the IDF says was the murder of Israeli teenager Binyamin Achimeir by Palestinian terrorists over the weekend.

The United States on Monday strongly condemned Achimeir’s murder and said it was increasingly concerned by the violence against Palestinians and their property that ensued in the West Bank after his death.

The violence over the weekend resulted in the deaths of two Palestinians, Jihad Abu Aliya, 25, and Omar Ahmad Abdulghani Hamed, 17, the US State Department said in a statement. “We strongly condemn these murders.”

“The violence must stop.  Civilians are never legitimate targets.  We call on the authorities to take measures to protect all communities from harm, and we urge Israel and the Palestinian Authority to do everything possible to de-escalate tensions,” the statement added.

Settler violence spiked after the October 7 massacre carried out by the Hamas terror group in southern Israel, in which some 1,200 people were killed and 253 were taken hostage, but violence was already on the rise before then, according to watchdogs.

A Palestinian inspects the damage to his belongings in the village of Mughayir near Ramallah in the West Bank on April 13, 2024, after an alleged attack by Israeli settlers on the village. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh / AFP)

In October, the Shin Bet was reported to have warned the government that the increase in settler attacks may cause an eruption of violence committed by Palestinians.

The West Bank has been under Israeli military rule since the 1967 Six Day War, while the Palestinian Authority has controlled parts of the territory since 1994. About 490,000 settlers live among approximately three million Palestinians in the West Bank in settlements that are widely considered illegal under international law.

Since October 7, troops have arrested some 3,700 wanted Palestinians across the West Bank, including more than 1,600 affiliated with Hamas. According to the Palestinian Authority health ministry, more than 450 West Bank Palestinians have been killed in that time.

In the same period, at least 13 Israelis, among them two members of security forces, have been killed by Palestinians in the West Bank, according to an Israeli tally.

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