The Daily Telegraph
Israeli settlers fight terror with fire in West Bank riot
Revenge attacks on homes of Palestinians condemned but tensions boil over and the violence continues
MERHEJ YOUSEF winced as he surveyed the charred wreck of his son’s taxi, one of dozens of vehicles torched the previous night by a mob of Jewish settlers. “I was on the rooftop and when I saw the smoke I came down to see what was happening,” Mr Yousef told The Daily Telegraph. “They were burning down everything.”
On Sunday night, hundreds of Jewish settlers descended on Huwara seeking revenge for a terrorist attack earlier that day in which two Israeli brothers were shot dead in their car. Witnesses said the rioters forced their way through gates into a courtyard where they set fire to vehicles before moving on to torch homes and shops in Huwara and other nearby villages.
The mob also killed Sameh Aqtash, a 37-year-old Palestinian man, who was reportedly shot in the stomach. His relatives said Mr Aqtash was an aid worker who had just returned from earthquake-stricken Turkey.
Tensions are at boiling point after Israeli army raids and Palestinian terror attacks have killed more than 60 Palestinians and 13 Israelis this year.
The latest violence broke out just as Israeli and Palestinian negotiators pledged at a summit in Jordan to deescalate those tensions, a cause not helped when a senior Israeli minister appeared to endorse a post on social media that called for Huwara to be “erased”. Bezalel Smotrich later clarified that he did not want Israelis to take the law into their own hands.
Huwara was almost deserted yesterday. The Israeli military, which has full control over this part of the West Bank, tightly monitored access. However, at one point, a car festooned with Israeli flags pulled up near the burnt vehicles and its driver jeered at residents.
“It might be normal for me but it’s not normal for my grandchildren,” said Mr Youssef, 73. “We wanted to fight back but the army did not allow us to... it’s like a tragedy when we see our properties being destroyed.”
An Israeli official said 10 settlers had been arrested over “revenge activity” in and around Huwara, which sits on a highway connecting Jewish settlements throughout the West Bank that has become a target for settler violence.
Isaac Herzog, the president of Israel, condemned the settlers’ actions as a “cruel and violent rampage” but last night there were reports of renewed rioting in Huwara, while an Israeli man was said to be in critical condition after being shot.
‘We wanted to fight back but the army will not allow us to ... it’s a tragedy to see our property destroyed’