Three Palestinians were reportedly wounded on Monday as settlers hurled stones at businesses and cars in the town of Hawara south of Nablus in the West Bank.
According to Palestinian reports, three Palestinians were lightly injured and the windows of some 20 cars and two stores were shattered in the attack.
According to a security source, the incident took place during celebrations marking the release from prison of a settler from Yizhar who had been convicted of assaulting Palestinians last year. The settler was a minor at the time. The source said the settler's friends traveled in a convoy through Hawara, where some left their vehicles and threw stones at Palestinian cars.
A video clip of the incident shows several people in the convoy sticking their bodies out of the car windows as a commercial vehicle blaring music followed behind them. At the side of the road, Israeli soldiers are visible and an army jeep can be seen behind the convoy. Another video shows two people getting out of a red car with Israeli license plates, throwing stones at a car at the side of the road and then running back to the red car.
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Defense Minister Benny Gantz issued a statement making reference to “the recent incidents of nationalistic crime in Judea and Samaria,” referring to the West Bank. He called the incidents serious and said he intends to act with a “heavy hand” in addressing the problem.
“Anyone who throws stones, torches cars and uses weapons … is a terrorist and that is how we will relate to them. I recently convened a number of discussions on the subject, and we are in the midst of a process aimed at strengthening the forces on the ground, building the force together with the police and the Shin Bet [security service] and concentrating operational and legal efforts,” he added.
The Israeli army said in response: “This evening [Monday], there was friction between Jewish [residents of the West Bank] and Palestinians in the course of which damage was caused to a number of Palestinian vehicles and businesses in the village of Hawara. The friction began when a number of vehicles from a convoy on Route 60 went through the village of Hawara, throwing stones at businesses and parked cars and causing them major damage. The Israel Police have opened an investigation into the circumstances of the incident.”
The police issued a statement with a similar account of the incident and said that they have opened an investigation.
Kaid Amar, the owner of a plumbing fixture store that was the target of stone-throwing, alleged in comments to Haaretz that the settlers had the protection of the soldiers at the scene. “They broke up my store and caused me 40,000 shekels [$12,600] in damage. My car was also wrecked. The soldiers were there around [the settlers’] cars and didn’t do anything,” he said.
Hawara Mayor Mueen Damidi said, “Israel says it’s a democracy, but if Palestinians were to have thrown stones, what would they have done? Shoot them. We are suffering greatly from the situation.”
“In broad daylight, under the cover of protection from soldiers, a convoy of settlers carry out a pogrom on Palestinians,” Lior Amihai, the director of the Israeli group Yesh Din Volunteer for Human Rights, said. “The result is Palestinians who are injured physically and emotionally and countless stores and vehicles that have been damaged. Instead of protecting the injured, they accompany the rioters to a city of refuge.”
Meretz Knesset member Mossi Raz said that frightful violence on the part of settlers has become a daily occurrence. “The time has come for Gantz and [Public Security Minister] Omer Bar-Lev to recognized it and deal with the phenomenon in its full severity.”
In addition to Gantz’s comments, Bar-Lev has spoken out against settler violence.
The young man who release Monday prompted the convoy thorough Hawara admitted to and was convicted of conspiracy with racist motives, aggravated injuring as a part of a group, possession of a knife and malicious damaging of motor vehicles in connection with an incident in the West Bank village of Sarta a year ago. In the course of the incident, he and seven others threw stun grenades and stones at the homes of four Palestinians.
Initially, the court refused to accept a plea agreement that the minor and the prosecution had entered into – sentencing him instead to 20 months in prison. His lawyer appealed the sentence and the Supreme Court reversed the decision and sentenced him to a year from the time of his arrest, as provided in the original agreement. But the Supreme Court recommended changing the law so that stiffer punishment would be permitted in the future.
In another recent case of violence by residents of West Bank settlements, on Friday, seven Israeli human rights activists were lightly injured in an attack near the Palestinian village of Burin in the West Bank.
According to some of the activists, they were attacked by a group of about 15 masked assailants who came from the nearby unauthorized outpost of Givat Ronen. The group then fled the scene before Israeli soldiers arrived.