United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nikolay Mladenov on Thursday condemned the stoning of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s convoy, calling it “absolutely unacceptable.”
“The stoning attack on Palestinian Prime Minister Hamdallah’s convoy on Christmas is a very worrying incident,” Mladenov said in a statement.
“It is absolutely unacceptable and the perpetrators must be brought to justice,” he said. “Stones can kill.”
“Such violence must stop immediately,” Mladenov said.
Hamdallah’s convoy was hit with stones on December 25 near the Tapuah junction in the northern West Bank as he returned home from a Christmas Eve mass in Bethlehem, Yousef Mahmoud, a PA government spokesman said on Thursday, adding that two members of the PA prime minister’s entourage were injured in the incident.
Mahmoud accused Israeli settlers of being behind the stoning.
A defense official told the Times of Israel on Thursday that they suspect settlers were responsible for the the rock-throwing, confirming an earlier report by the Kan public broadcaster.
In his statement, Mladenov noted that the attack occurred close to where a Palestinian woman was killed when stones — allegedly thrown by Israeli settlers — hit her family car in October.
An investigation has been opened into that incident, with the growing assessment among Israeli defense officials that Jewish settlers were responsible for throwing the rock that killed 47-year-old Aisha Rabi. Most of the details of that investigation are under a court-imposed gag order.
Earlier this week, an Israeli defense official warned that far-right settlers in the West Bank have become increasingly “emboldened” to carry out attacks against local Palestinians.
The official said the past year has seen a significant rise in so-called “price tag” attacks, the moniker given to vandalism and other hate crimes carried out by Jewish ultra-nationalists in the West Bank, ostensibly in retaliation for Palestinian violence or government policies perceived as hostile to the settler movement.
Last week, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs released new statistics ahead of the new year that showed a 69% increase in settler attacks on Palestinians in 2018 compared to 2017.
OCHA recorded 265 incidents where Israeli residents of the West Bank allegedly targeted Palestinians or their property. In total, 115 Palestinians were injured in those attacks and 7,900 trees and 540 vehicles were destroyed.
AFP contributed to this report.