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Israel arrests six after hundreds rampaged through Huwwara

Data shows Israeli authorities bring charges in fewer than 10 percent of settler violence cases in the West Bank
Israeli settlers confront Palestinians while soldiers stand in between them in the occupied West Bank town of Huwwara on 27 February 2023 (Reuters)
Israeli settlers confront Palestinians while soldiers stand between them, in the occupied West Bank town of Huwwara, 27 February 2023 (Reuters)

Israeli forces said they arrested six people on Wednesday after hundreds of settlers rampaged through the occupied West Bank town of Huwwara on Sunday. 

An Israeli police spokesperson said the six, including two minors, were arrested for suspected involvement in “rioting, setting fire to vehicles and buildings, assaulting Palestinians, causing damage to property in Huwwara”.

Eight people had been arrested after the riots but were later released, three of them subject to house arrest, according to Israeli officials.

The weekend's violent rampage by settlers has been described as unprecedented in its nature. Hundreds of Israeli settlers, flanked by soldiers, attacked Palestinian towns and villages near Nablus on Sunday, following a shooting that killed two Israelis in Huwwara town earlier in the day.  

The mob violence left one Palestinian dead, nearly 400 wounded and dozens of homes and cars burned or destroyed.

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The Israeli military has been criticised for failing to prevent the violence, despite the fact settlers had announced publicly their intentions to carry out revenge attacks before going on the rampage. 

UN experts and human rights groups have previously accused the Israeli state of being complicit in settler attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank. 

Settler violence has been on a year-to-year upward trend since 2016, according to the UN.

Nearly 700,000 settlers live in more than 250 settlements and outposts across the West Bank and East Jerusalem in violation of international law.

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There were at least 849 attacks by settlers against Palestinians in 2022, with at least 228 of them leading to casualties, UN data shows. In comparison, 496 attacks were recorded in 2021 and 358 in 2020.

According to the Israeli rights group Yesh Din, 91 percent of investigations between 2014 and 2020 into settler attacks ended without an indictment

Meanwhile, Palestinian citizens of Israel who were handed heavy sentences over rioting in recent months accuse the state of treating them “unjustly and disproportionately”. 

Police detained more than 2,150 people in the aftermath of the May 2021 riots, when the Israeli bombing of Gaza and violations in Jerusalem prompted violence and protests to break out in several mixed Jewish-Arab cities.

Despite Jewish Israelis carrying out many of the most brutal crimes during the riots, Palestinian citizens have been disproportionately singled out.

Around 91 percent of those detained were Palestinian citizens of Israel. Many have been handed long prison sentences - of up to 10 years - on charges of rioting.

Meanwhile, no one has been charged for the murder of Moussa Hassouna, a Palestinian resident of Lydd (known as Lod in Hebrew) who was shot dead by four Israelis during the May 2021 riots. Police closed the investigation into his killing, saying the suspects opened fire in "self-defence".

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