UN special coordinator condemns ‘appalling’ new settler attacks in Huwara

Palestinian family describes how settlers assaulted them in their car, with stones, pepper spray and an axe, before shots were fired

Screen capture from video of a masked man using an axe to attack a Palestinian man in a car in the West Bank town of Huwara, March 6, 2023. (YouTube; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Screen capture from video of a masked man using an axe to attack a Palestinian man in a car in the West Bank town of Huwara, March 6, 2023. (YouTube; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, issued a statement Wednesday condemning fresh settler attacks in the West Bank town of Huwara and demanding accountability from Israel.

“I am deeply disturbed by the continuing violence and appalled by the attacks of Israeli settlers against Palestinians two days ago in Huwara, near Nablus,” he said. “Israel, as the occupying power, must ensure that the civilian population is protected, and perpetrators are held to account.”

Wennesland’s call came as harrowing new testimony emerged of how settlers attacked a car carrying a family with small children, smashing the windows and firing shots.

“I condemn settler violence against Palestinians. I condemn Palestinian attacks against Israelis. All civilians must be protected from violence,” Wennesland said. “We are in the midst of a cycle of violence that must be stopped immediately.”

Wennesland said he was also alarmed by an IDF raid into the West Bank town of Jenin “resulting in armed exchanges between Israeli security forces and armed Palestinians. Six Palestinians were killed, including the perpetrator of the 26 February terrorist attack in Huwara.”

“Commitments were made in Aqaba in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan that should be implemented if we are to find a way forward,” he said referring to a summit last month between Israel, Jordanian and Palestinian Authority officials aimed at calming tensions.

The parties must refrain from further steps that would lead us to more violence,” he said.

Huwara has been on edge following an unprecedented settler rampage on February 26, which came hours after a Palestinian terrorist opened fire on an Israeli vehicle driving through the town, killing two brothers inside.

Clashes between settlers and Palestinians in the town were again reported late Monday with a number of locals said to be wounded. Both Israeli settlers and Palestinians also reported that their cars were attacked with stones as they drove through the main road in the flashpoint northern West Bank town.

A Palestinian family has described how they were attacked in the West Bank village of Huwara on Monday night, claiming settlers smashed the windows of their car, squirted them with pepper spray, and then chased them when they tried to escape, firing shots at their vehicle that contained a two-year-old girl.

Adris Halifa, 69, was injured in the head from stones thrown at the car.

Halifa and his son, residents of Asira al-Qibliya, which lies close to Huwara, recalled the recent assault in a Haartz report published Wednesday.

The elder Halifa said his family was attacked when they were buying groceries in a store on the main street of Huwara. With Halifa was his wife, his son Amar, and two grandchildren.

Halifa said the family had just returned to their vehicle when “suddenly settlers arrived and began throwing stones and hitting the car.”

Halifa said there were about ten people in the hostile group, of which four attacked the car.

Settlers smashed the windows and sprayed the occupants with pepper spray, he said.

A video of the attack showed one of the settlers repeatedly hitting the car with an axe.

The family managed to speed away in their damaged car, but a white vehicle gave chase, catching up after about a kilometer and forcing them to stop by blocking the road, Halifa said.

A man then exited the white vehicle whom Halifa identified as a security guard at one of the settlements in the area. He demanded that the Halifas get out of their car.

“He shouted at us in Hebrew and I don’t understand Hebrew,” said Halifa’s son, Amar, who was driving their car. “I only understood that this is an armed settler. I backed up and returned to the main street [in Huwara] and then they shot at us.”

The bullets apparently didn’t hit the vehicle.

The family believes that the person who shot at them was the security guard as there was no one else around and the shots came from the direction of his vehicle. Amar told Haaretz that Huwara residents said the man is “Yackov the guard,” and he described him as broad with a beard and reddish-brown hair.

Amar said he drove to another supermarket hoping to find help. The alleged security guard followed, got out of his car, and “started to shout into his radio.” Amar said he managed to understand that the man also told him to stop his own car, but just then local residents arrived on the scene to help.

“My father was bleeding from his head from a stone,” Amar said. Locals took the family to a clinic for treatment. His father was later taken to the hospital where staff attended to his wound.

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