Israeli settlers set fire to Palestinian vehicle in Huwwara

A group of Israeli settlers set fire to a Palestinian vehicle near the village of Huwwara south of Nablus in the early dawn hours of Wednesday, marking the latest incident in a string of violent settler attacks on Palestinians and their property in the area.

An official who monitors settlement activity in the northern occupied West Bank, Ghassan Daghlas, told Ma’an that surveillance cameras showed several Israeli settlers setting fire to a vehicle parked near a car wash in the village. The vehicle belonged to Mustafa al-Damidi, he said.

Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri wrote in a statement that “the Israeli side was notified” of the incident. She said Israeli army forces and forensic experts gathered evidence at the scene, and investigations were still ongoing.

The Palestinian town of Huwwara is located only a few hundred meters away from the illegal Israeli settlement of Yitzhar, home to some of the occupied West Bank’s most notorious and aggressive Israeli settlers.

Right-wing extremist settlers often carry out attacks on Palestinians and their property, known as “price tag attacks,” as revenge for attacks committed by Palestinians on Israeli forces.

Hours before the arson attack, Israeli forces shot 17-year-old Amjad Maher Jaafar multiple times in the stomach after he allegedly attempted to commit a knife attack on Israeli soldiers at the Huwwara military checkpoint, with no Israelis being harmed in the alleged stabbing. The Palestinian teen was still in a difficult condition as of late Tuesday night.

Over the weekend, settlers from Yitzhar committed two separate attacks on Palestinians in a single day.

Daghlas said at the time that some 100 “extremist settlers” from Yitzhar stormed the village of Urif that neighbors Huwwara, smashing windows and attempting to break into Palestinian homes.

Israeli soldiers arrived to the scene to protect the settlers and violently dispersed the group of Palestinians who gathered to defend their homes. Four Palestinians were shot with rubber-coated steel bullets, one of whom was shot in the head.

Later that afternoon, another mob of Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian homes in Huwwara with stones and sharp objects. Two Palestinians were hospitalized, including a 72-year-old woman.

Since the state of Israel confiscated land from Palestinian villages to establish the Yitzhar settlement in the 1980s, its settlers have posed a daily threat to Palestinians, their land, and their property, with attacks and violence having a profoundly negative impact on the community, according to the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ).

Settlers from Yitzhar have been known to steal crops, damage and burn trees and other plants, and attack places of worship in the area, in an attempt to intimidate Palestinian villagers and farmers from using their land.

Many Palestinian activists and rights groups have accused Israel of fostering a “culture of impunity” for Israeli settlers and soldiers committing violent acts against Palestinians.

In March, Israeli NGO Yesh Din revealed that Israeli authorities served indictments in only 8.2 percent of cases of Israeli settlers committing anti-Palestinian crimes in the occupied West Bank in the past three years.

Between 500,000 and 600,000 Israelis live in Jewish-only settlements across occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank in violation of international law, with recent announcements of settlement expansion provoking condemnation from the international community.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there were a total of 221 reported settler attacks against Palestinians and their properties in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem in 2015, and 107 in 2016.