Extremist Israelis from Nablus-area settlement continue attacks, injure 2 Palestinians

Extremist Israelis from the illegal Yitzhar settlement in the northern occupied West Bank district of Nablus attacked Palestinian residents in the village of Urif on Saturday, sparking further clashes between Palestinians locals and the Israeli army forces that raided the area to protect the settlers.

Ghassan Daghlas, an official who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank told Ma’an that dozens of Israeli settlers from the illegal Yitzhar settlement, located just a few hundred meters from Urif, attacked several homes in the northeastern part of the village.

According to Daghlas, local Munir al-Nuri was injured with rocks thrown by the settlers, while 55-year-old Taysir al-Safdeh was shot and injured in the leg by a rubber-coated steel fired by Israeli soldiers.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that Israeli forces used “crowd control” methods to suppress the clashes, without elaborating further, and described the incident as a “violent dispute between Palestinians and Israelis” who were “mutually throwing rocks at each other.”

The spokesperson initially said that no injuries were reported, but later told Ma’an that the Israeli army was aware that one Palestinian was injured during the “dispute.” However she could not say whether the injury was sustained from being attacked by Israeli settlers or by Israeli soldiers.

The incident came as the latest in a string of violent settler attacks in the area under the the protection of Israeli soldiers, with the Israeli army consistently describing the attacks as a mutual exchange of stone throwing inside the Palestinian communities.

Last Saturday, Daghlas told Ma’an that some 100 extremist settlers from Yitzhar stormed Urif, smashing windows of houses, and threatening to break inside. Four Palestinians were injured after Israeli forces raided the area and fired tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinians.

The same day, Israeli settlers also attacked Palestinians and their property in the nearby village of Huwwara. Two Palestinians were hospitalized, including 72-year-old woman Badiah Muhammad Hamdan who suffered a head injury.

In the wake of the settler attacks, two Palestinian cousins were shot and critically injured after they allegedly attempted to commit knife attacks on Israeli soldiers in separate incidents at the Huwwara military checkpoint. The two incidents were punctuated by an arson attack, with Israeli settlers setting fire to a Palestinian vehicle in Huwwara.

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

Since the state of Israel confiscated land from Palestinian villages to establish the illegal Yitzhar settlement in the 1980s, “attacks and violence perpetrated by settlers has had a profoundly negative impact on Palestinian residents and their property,” according to the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ), which has reported that the settlement “poses a daily threat to residents of the neighboring Palestinian villages.”

The settlers have also 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 meanwhile 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 — in comparison to a 90-99 percent conviction rate for Palestinians in Israelimilitary courts.

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.