Armed settlers were filmed in May by human rights group B'Tselem shooting at Palestinians who did not endanger them, even as soldiers stood by and spoke with them.
They were part of a group that joined soldiers in clashes in Palestinian towns in the West Bank on May 14, during hostilities between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. In video clips from two villages, a civilian and a masked person wearing army pants were caught on film firing toward Palestinians. Two Palestinians were killed in the violence, but it is unclear which shooters were responsible.
The videos were published first on the Local Call website, the Hebrew edition of +972 Magazine.
One video shows soldiers in the village of Urif near Yitzhar, talking to an armed, shirtless and masked person wearing army pants, after which he shoots a few times toward the Palestinians. The army denied that the unidentified shooter is a member of the force deployed at the scene.
The clip was filmed in the eastern part of the village, near the school. “It was right in the village, near the houses,” said town council head Mazen Shehadeh. He told Haaretz the incident began when some 30 settlers approached the village, followed by six or seven soldiers, and began shooting toward the Palestinians.
Shehadeh said villagers threw rocks to “protect the houses." He added, "What could we do when the armed settlers come in our direction?” The masked man who fired at them took his weapon from one of the soldiers and was given more ammunition by the military force to use after he ran out, he said.
In the incident, Nidal Sfadi, 26, was killed and 11 others were injured. Shehadeh asserts the dead man was shot about 100 meters from the area where the clip was filmed. A few days earlier, olive trees were uprooted in the village and solar panels were vandalized, he said.
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“Every time there is any incident in the area, they come to the village from the direction of Yitzhar and look for revenge,” said Shehadeh. Yitzhar's security coordinator, Yitzhak Levy, can be seen in pictures captured at the incident, but there is no evidence he shot at anyone. Yitzhar residents claimed there were several acts of arson perpetrated by Palestinians on the day of the incident.
In another incident documented that day, in the village of Asira al-Qibliya, masked people were filmed standing alongside soldiers, one of them throwing stones at a Palestinian. One settler with his face exposed runs toward Palestinians standing by houses and shoots at them. Later, a Palestinian, reportedly Husam ‘Asayrah, collapses. Asira council head Hafez Salah said a soldier shot and killed him. The Sicha Mekomit website reported that another Palestinian was shot when soldiers and settlers entered nearby Iskaka.
That same day, nine Palestinians were killed across the West Bank in clashes with security forces. In one case, Isma’il Tubasi of al-Reiha was shot to death. Two Palestinians witnesses told Kan News and Sicha Mekomit that they saw settlers carrying weapons and a hatchet, and heard shots. No one witnessed the shooting. Some said Tubasi’s face had signs of cuts. Tubasi was there with other Palestinians to put out fires, which Palestinians say were lit by settlers.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit has yet to provide a response.