Vandals target Palestinian village in suspected settler hate crime

Mayor of Asira al-Qabaliya — where 22 cars had tires slashed, Hebrew hate slogans painted — says Israeli authorities came to probe but were mobbed by local youths

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

A car whose tires were slashed and was graffitied with the Hebrew phrase "death to the murderers" in the Palestinian village of Asira al-Qabaliya on October 15, 2018. (Said Shartah)
A car whose tires were slashed and was graffitied with the Hebrew phrase "death to the murderers" in the Palestinian village of Asira al-Qabaliya on October 15, 2018. (Said Shartah)

Palestinians in the central West Bank village of Asira al-Qabaliya reported Monday that 22 vehicles parked in the town had been vandalized in an apparent hate crime they blamed on Israeli settlers.

Photos from the village show a number of cars with their tires slashed and others daubed with stars of David as well as Hebrew slogans including “death to murderers” and “Jews wake up.”

Asira al-Qabaliya Mayor Said Shartah said both Palestinian and Israeli authorities were notified of the incident.

Youths from the village hurled stones at an Israel Police convoy when it attempted to enter the village to photograph the damage, Shartah said. A Palestinian team had earlier entered and taken pictures.

A spokeswoman for the police did not respond to a request for comment.

Shartah said that the evidence made clear that the perpetrators were nearby settlers, likely from the Jewish community of Talmon whose residents have been accused of targeting his village in the past.

Nonetheless, Shartah called on both sides to work to restore calm. “We want to live in quiet without problems. I hope these incidents will stop and that neither side will have to continue to live in fear,” he said.

The damage discovered Wednesday has been part of a recent wave of violence and vandalism in the West Bank.

On Sunday, Palestinian farmers from four villages across the West Bank arrived at their fields to find dozens of olive trees damaged and stolen.

The Yesh Din rights group said that the targeted farms’ proximity to Israeli outposts, whose residents have been prone to confrontation with Palestinians, suggests that the incidents could be anti-Arab hate crimes.

Last week, Aisha Muhammad Talal Rabi was killed after being hit in the head by a large rock while driving in the northern West Bank. Her husband, who was in the car with her at the time told Reuters that he heard the perpetrators speaking Hebrew before they fled the scene.

Aisha Rabi (Courtesy)

A spokesman for the Shin Bet confirmed that the security agency opened a probe into the incident, suggesting that it was indeed suspected of being an act of terror carried out by area settlers. The nationalistic crime unit of the police’s Judea and Samaria (West Bank) District is also probing the death, which has been placed under a gag order, although authorities have not ruled out the possibility that a group of Palestinians stone-throwers mistook the Palestinian vehicle for an Israeli one.

Just hours after the burial of Rabi on Saturday afternoon, a Yesh Din field worker filmed a half a dozen of Israelis hurling stones at a pair of Palestinians working their fields in between the northern West Bank villages of Burin and Hawara.

Dressed in traditional Sabbath garb, the settlers could be seen gathering the olives that the farmers were in the middle of cultivating before they fled to safety, the activist group said.

Earlier this month, two Israelis were killed by a Palestinian coworker in a terror shooting at the Barkan Industrial Park and an IDF reservist was moderately hurt in a stabbing attack outside an army base four days later. The Barkan shooter has yet to be apprehended.

Following the stabbing, more than a dozen settler youths were filmed hurling stones at Palestinian cars stopped at an IDF checkpoint that was erected after the attack.

Also last week, Hebrew graffiti was found sprayed on the walls of a mosque in the northern West Bank village of Krayot, near the Israeli settlement of Shiloh, in an attack that also saw the tires of seven vehicles slashed.

In two other incidents that day, settlers reportedly attacked a village in the central West Bank and a Palestinian farmer discovered some of his olive trees had been vandalized.

Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

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