Three people, including a minor, were arrested on Wednesday night after dozens of masked settlers threw stones at Palestinians on Tuesday, injuring 12, in the South Hebron Hills.
The incident took place near the West Bank village of Khirbat al-Mufkara, where settlers also damaged approximately 10 Palestinian vehicles, as well as water tanks in the village. Among the 12 injured was a 3-year-old boy who suffered a head injury and was taken to Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva in moderate condition.
In response, the Palestinians threw stones at the settlers, mildly injuring three of them. Israeli soldiers who arrived at the scene fired tear gas and stun grenades. One Palestinian and one settler were arrested, the police said.
Palestinian residents said the incident began when a Palestinian shepherd told locals that settlers had stabbed his sheep. A few Palestinians came to the scene to help disperse the settlers. About a half an hour later, at around 2 P.M., 80 to 100 settlers, their faces covered, came to the village, the Palestinians said.
“This is the most I’ve seen compared to past attacks,” said Basel al-Adra, an activist from the nearby village of al-Tuwani. “They came to almost every house and every car in the village,” he added.
“They destroyed the cars, punctured the tires of tractors and damaged my cistern. They also entered my house and broke dishes,” said Mahmoud Hussein, the grandfather of the injured toddler. According to Hussein, his grandson was injured when a settler, standing in the entry of the house, threw a rock at the boy as he slept. Hussein said the settlers also threw stones at the windows, and that another 2-year-old was injured from the broken glass. “Not one window was left in the house,” he said.
Another Palestinian activist said that over the past week, settlers had built a new sheep farm near the illegal outpost of Avigayil. “Since then, the situation has heated up. They started pasturing on private land right in front of people’s houses,” he said.
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According to the Palestinians, soldiers who arrived at the scene fired tear gas canisters at the village houses. The army said one soldier suffered mild injuries from a stone that was thrown.
In a video of the incident, deputy battalion commander Maor Moshe is seen shoving a Palestinian man, though a week ago the commander was reprimanded for similarly shoving a left-wing activist during a protest in the area.
After the incident, Meretz lawmaker Mossi Raz wrote to Defense Minister Benny Gantz. “Settler violence has become an epidemic," Raz said. "It’s high time for lenience and disregard of this phenomenon to stop. I expect the offenders to be brought to justice immediately.”
The Hebron Mount regional council head Yochai Damari responded to the incident, saying "the picture that emerges is complex." He said that the Israeli settlers don't live in the region and that they claimed they were attacked with stones. "Our way is not one of violence, neither against soldiers nor against Arabs," he said.
He added that the vehicle of a security guard of the Havat Maon settler outpost was damaged by stones, and that he is in talks with the military, the Shin Bet security service, and the police to "get the results of the investigation."
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid also reacted to the incident, saying "This violent incident, is horrific, and it is terror. This isn’t the Israeli way, and it isn’t the Jewish way. This is a violent and dangerous fringe, and we have a responsibility to bring them to justice."