US laments ‘rising trend’ of settler violence after 4 Palestinians hurt by gunfire

State Department highlights ‘attacks against Palestinians in homes and farms in which they have lived for decades,’ while also calling out attempted stabbing by a Palestinian

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Illustrative: Israeli soldiers stand by as Israeli settlers throw stones at Palestinians during clashes in the town of Huwara in the West Bank on October 13, 2022. (Oren Ziv/AFP)
Illustrative: Israeli soldiers stand by as Israeli settlers throw stones at Palestinians during clashes in the town of Huwara in the West Bank on October 13, 2022. (Oren Ziv/AFP)

The US State Department on Friday expressed 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.

The statement from the State Department’s Near East Affairs Bureau followed another tense week beyond the Green Line, during which several clashes occurred between settlers and Palestinians.

The most recent altercation took place Friday when four Palestinians were wounded by settler gunfire, including one person who was in serious condition after taking a bullet to the head.

Videos posted to social media showed fields and several vehicles apparently set on fire by the settlers as well.

A military spokesperson told The Times of Israel that troops were dispatched to the area following reports of “violent friction” between settlers and Palestinians near the Adei Ad settlement.

The spokesperson said settlers had opened fire during the clashes, and that both sides were hurling stones.

“As a result of the violent friction, a number of Palestinians and Israeli civilians were injured,” the spokesperson said, adding that the Israel Defense Forces had received reports of Palestinian-owned cars being set on fire.

IDF troops along with police officers used riot dispersal means and live fire in the air to eventually disperse the sides, the spokesperson said.

Israel Police launched an investigation into the violence, but no arrests have been made so far.

Two days earlier, several settlers attacked Palestinians in the northern West Bank village of Burqa and set fire to homes, according to the Yesh Din rights group. Video from Burqa showed residents trying to extinguish the blazes.

Israelis and Palestinians hurled stones at one another during the altercation, and their respective medic services said two Palestinians and one Israeli were wounded.

On Monday, the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that the final members of the Palestinian herding community of Ein Samia near Ramallah had left their lands after longstanding intimidation and attacks by settlers and home demolitions by Israeli authorities.

“These families are not leaving by choice; the Israeli authorities have repeatedly destroyed houses and other buildings they own and threatened to destroy their only school,” said the UN’s Acting Humanitarian Coordinator Yvonne Halle. “At the same time, the available grazing land has dwindled due to the expansion of settlements. Both children and adults have experienced settler violence.”

Weighing in on the attacks, the State Department said Friday, “We are deeply concerned by the rising trend of extremist settler violence, including reports of attacks against Palestinians in homes and farms in which they have lived for decades. We unequivocally condemn all acts of extremist violence, whether Israeli or Palestinian.”

It then turned to an incident from hours earlier in which a Palestinian man was shot and killed by a member of a local security team after infiltrating the Teneh Omarim West Bank settlement and trying to stab an Israeli at the entrance to the community synagogue, according to the IDF.

Video from the scene showed the man sliding under the community gate and then walking into the community with what appears to be a knife in his hand.

“In the same vein, we also condemn reports of an attempted stabbing attack against an Israeli at Teneh Omarim. There is an urgent need for both parties to take steps to deescalate tensions and work together to improve the security situation in the West Bank,” the State Department said.

Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians have been high for the past year, with the Israeli military conducting 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 19 people and left several more seriously hurt.

At least 113 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.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report

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