Video footage released Wednesday suggests that a recent clash between Jewish settlers and Palestinians in the West Bank was sparked by settlers, and was not a premeditated Palestinian assault on Israelis as previously reported.
According to some reporting, the settler who was seriously injured in the brawl first attacked Palestinians at the scene with a metal bar.
The violent incident reported Monday took place near the settlement of Ma’on in the South Hebron Hills area of the West Bank, and the nearby illegal settlement outpost of Havat Ma’on.
Reports at the time said some 30 Palestinians had attacked two Israeli settlers. One, Itamar Cohen, was seriously hurt after being struck in the head (his condition has since been downgraded to moderate). Arriving at the scene, police arrested a 52-year-old Palestinian who was involved in the incident. He is currently suspected of attempted murder.
But a 23-minute video of the incident that has since surfaced online suggests otherwise. It indicates that the settlers were those who sparked the conflict, trying to banish the Palestinian farmers from what they say is their land.
The video showed a number of settlers, some masked and armed with metal bars, approaching two Palestinians and telling them to “get out of here.” Another settler wearing IDF uniform pants then arrived with an M16 rifle. A violent clash ensued, with two masked settlers confronting the Palestinians.
הפייק לינץ' בהר חברון: הנה איתמר כהן, רעול פנים, אוחז במוט מברזל, מגיע מהתנחלות מרוחקת עם רעול פנים ומתנחל חמוש ב-M16, לאדמה פלסטינית פרטית, במטרה לתקוף ולגרש 2-3 חקלאים שעובדים בה. רגעים רלוונטים מתוך סרטון רציף של 23 דקות.
גופי תקשורת – לא מאוחר לתקן. pic.twitter.com/GLQk0r2gkB
— Yuval Abraham יובל אברהם (@yuval_abraham) September 14, 2022
According to Siha Mekomit reporter Yuval Abraham, Cohen was one of the masked and armed settlers (he is seen in white clothes in the video).
A Palestinian man broke his hand and injured his shoulder in the incident, according to the Red Cross.
Several shots were heard in the background throughout the incident, with reports indicating that the settler holding the gun — apparently an off-duty soldier in the IDF — had discharged his weapon multiple times, apparently firing into the air to scare off the Palestinians.
The IDF has since said it would investigate the soldier’s conduct in the incident.
Toward the end of the video, Palestinians can be heard saying “call the police” in the background.
Palestinians have claimed that the area seen in the video is private property and that the Palestinian seen confronting the settlers was trying to protect his land.
According to the Kerem Navot organization, there is a long history of violence emanating from the Havat Ma’on outpost.
This violence has been directed in particular against the residents of the nearby Palestinian village of At-Tuwani while they tend to their land.
One Palestinian attorney says he has filed 60 reports of incidents of harassment and assault against At-Tuwani residents by settlers and the army since 2017, Kerem Navot noted.
In one incident in December 2021, dozens of olive, almond and peach trees belonging to one village resident, Hafez Huraini were allegedly destroyed by settlers.
And in 2018, settlers from Havat Maon driving an ATV created a disturbance on land next to the village during which Huraini’s son’s leg was broken when the ATV struck him.
A European Union report from July noted “a worrisome trend of rising settler violence” in the West Bank. According to data released by the Shin Bet, the number of attacks carried out by extremist Jewish settlers rose in 2021 by nearly 50 percent.
Recent months have also seen increased military operations in the West Bank, with Israeli security forces stepping up arrest raids following a deadly wave of terror attacks that left 19 people dead earlier this year.
On Wednesday, IDF officer Bar Falah was killed while leading his troops to arrest two suspects near the West Bank security barrier. The Palestinian gunmen were killed in the firefight that followed.
Entering the West Bank village of Kafr Dan the following day to map out the homes of the gunmen ahead of a potential demolition, Israeli troops clashed with armed Palestinians. A 17-year-old Palestinian, Oday Salah, was killed in the incident.
Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.