This is a developing story.
Jerusalem24 – Palestinian residents of Huwara woke up to scenes of devastation after around 400 Israeli settlers, according to estimates by Israeli security, attacked the town and surrounding villages last night following a shooting attack that killed two Israeli settlers yesterday afternoon.
As hundreds of Israeli settlers gather once again this afternoon in several locations surrounding Nablus including Huwara, as well as in front of major illegal Israeli settlements and along road 60 which runs the length of the occupied West Bank, Palestinians have begun barricading themselves in their homes in preparation for another anticipated attack.
While Israeli settler movement into typical hotspots for attacks is unimpeded by the Israeli soldiers on the ground, Palestinian residents themselves are being forced to use alternative dirt roads in the mountains in order to leave their towns, or face long waits and stringent checks at closed military checkpoints.
Murder and arson
As they brace for further attacks, Huwara residents have begun taking stock of the damage inflicted by last night’s attack.
A 37-year-old Red Crescent volunteer, Sameh Aqtash, who had just returned from Turkey and Syria after the earthquake, was shot and killed by Israeli gunfire in the village of Zatara. It is unclear at this point whether the shot was fired by a soldier or a settler.
Israeli forces and settlers have now killed 65 Palestinians including 13 children in the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem in 2023.
Figures released by the Red Crescent Society report a total of 395 injuries across the villages of Zatara, Burin, Beit Furik, Huwara, and Asira Al-Qibliya, including one by live ammunition to the hand, several stabbing injuries, several injuries due to physical assaults, one fractured skull due to a stone, and head injuries caused by an iron bar.
A total of 35 houses were completely burned down, over 40 houses partially burned, and around 100 vehicles were torched. A number of livestock were also slaughtered by settlers in Burin.
A Palestinian Civil Defense crew was injured and a fire truck damaged when settlers pelted them with stones as they arrived at the site of a fire.
Two Red Crescent ambulances and three private ambulances were attacked by settlers and Israeli soldiers, damaging the vehicles, in addition to the army preventing access to the injured in Huwara for over two hours, according to a Red Crescent statement.Shortly after midnight, the Israeli army said the situation in Huwara was “under control”. Israeli media reported six Israeli settlers were arrested following the attacks.
During the night, Israeli settlers also attacked Palestinians and torched Palestinian vehicles north of Al-Jalazone refugee camp near Ramallah, Hebron, Jenin, Salfit, Bethlehem, and Jericho.
Journalists also came under attack from both settlers and soldiers while covering last night’s events. This morning, an Israeli settler attempted to run over several journalists during their media coverage in Huwara, according to Palestine TV correspondent Bakr Abdel-Haq.
“We’ve never seen anything so vicious”
Kamal Odeh, Fatah secretary in Huwara, speaking to reporters on the ground last night, said: “I’ve never seen anything like this. We’ve been here since the First Intifada and we’ve never seen anything so vicious.”
“We ask that God be with us, and we ask all the residents of villages around us to stand up to the settlers and soldiers, because the situation is unbearable.”
Palestinian families describe being trapped inside their burning houses as settlers stood outside, ready to attack them when they evacuated. Other families report the settlers ignited the fires at the houses’ entrances to stop them escaping.
Breaking news: Pogroms in Burin..
A Palestinian family are screaming calling for help, armed settlers are waiting for them to get out their house, whilst attempting to burn it. There is women and children trapped inside pic.twitter.com/yW08bsw3g1
— Younis | يونس (@ytirawi) February 26, 2023
Ziad Dmaidi, owner of a house that settlers burned, tell details of what happened last night.
“My children & I had two options, either die of suffocation from the fire inside the house, or go outside and get hit by the settlers’ stones that they threw over my burning house…” pic.twitter.com/HOdSYu87zS
— Younis | يونس (@ytirawi) February 27, 2023
Members of Knesset incite against Palestinians
Last night and this morning, several Israeli officials and members of Knesset expressed both support and satisfaction with the settlers’ attack.
Far-right lawmaker and member of Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Jewish Power party, Zvika Fogel, told Israel’s army radio this morning he “looks very favorably upon” the results of the attack. “The effect of deterrence that was achieved yesterday following these so-called ‘pogroms’ hadn’t been achieved in the West Bank since Operation Defensive Shield,” referring to the series of Israeli military invasions in West Bank cities in 2002 that killed hundreds of Palestinians including 55 children as young as three years old.
In a now-deleted tweet, Deputy Chairman of the Settlers Council in the Central West Bank David Ben Zion proclaimed “The village of Huwara should be erased today” and “There is no room for mercy.”
Another member of Knesset with the Jewish Power party, Limor Son Har-Melech, wrote that she went to Huwara “to participate” in the settler attacks, before heading to the evacuated Evyatar illegal settler outpost in Beita near Nablus, to lend support to groups of settlers who wish to repopulate the outpost.
Ben-Gvir himself headed to Evyatar earlier today as crowds of settlers gathered to wait for his appearance, in a move seen as a deliberate provocation by Palestinians.
הגעתי ליישוב אביתר ואמרתי כי צריך להפסיק את מדיניות ההכלה. המדינה שלנו היא זו שחייבת להילחם בטרור, לכסח את המחבלים וגם לבנות ולהקים ישובים, באביתר, ביו”ש ובמדינת ישראל כולה. pic.twitter.com/I4TDSWINba
— איתמר בן גביר (@itamarbengvir) February 27, 2023
Daniella Weiss, the leader of the Nachala settler movement behind the establishment of the Evyatar outpost, told Israel’s Kan public broadcaster yesterday evening, “Should I call for people to leave Huwara? Shall I tell them to stop? Stop what?”
Weiss suggested the army should abstain from having a presence on the ground in the occupied West Bank, saying settlers “have a lot of guns” and there is no need for a military presence. “Anyone who thinks that we have to use the army to deal with these attackers and not through strengthening the settlements is mistaken.”