West Bank: Palestinian shot dead as Israeli settlers storm another town
On Wednesday afternoon, scores of Israeli settlers protected by soldiers attacked the occupied West Bank town of Turmusaya, north of Ramallah, killing a Palestinian man and torching homes, vehicles and agricultural land.
A 27-year-old man identified by the Palestinian health ministry as Omar Ketin was killed by gunfire. It was not immediately clear if he had been shot by armed settlers or Israeli troops.
The sudden attack came around lunchtime after a difficult night for Palestinians near Nablus, whose villages and towns were similarly attacked by Israeli settlers, wounding several people.
Lafi Adeeb, the mayor of Turmusaya, said more than 400 armed Jewish settlers, coming from the Shilo settlement established on the town's lands, attacked the Palestinian community and set fire to around 30 houses and 60 vehicles.
Adeeb told Middle East Eye that he and other residents helped evacuate people from burning buildings, including children, women and the elderly, dozens of who were choking on the smoke.
“This is genocide, this is a war against us. Settlers carrying weapons and canisters full of fuel attack our small village and set fire to houses over the heads of their inhabitants,” Adeeb added.
'This is genocide, this is a war against us. Settlers carrying weapons and canisters full of fuel attack our small village and set fire to houses'
- Lafi Adeeb, mayor of Turmusaya,
This attack on the town is not the first of its kind, but it is the largest in several years.
Turmusaya, which has had lands confiscated by Israel for the construction of the Shilo illegal settlement and other outposts, has been occasionally targeted by settlers in recent years.
As the settlers descended on Turmusaya, dozens of unnamed residents gathered to confront them and defend their homes, only to find their way blocked by Israeli soldiers protecting the attackers.
Israeli soldiers also closed off the entrances to the town, making it difficult for fire engines and ambulances to arrive.
According to Adeeb, more than 100 Palestinians were wounded, including 12 from live bullets.
“They attacked our town by surprise, sneaking in at noon because they know that the citizens are busy and most of them are outside the town. The attack was large and organised, with full protection and coordination with the Israeli army, which is working against us and protecting them,” Adeeb said.
With ambulances blocked from much of the town by soldiers, residents had to transport the wounded to medical centres using their own vehicles.
Turmusaya resident Ahmed Jabara described the settlers' attack as ferocious, especially since they were armed and protected by Israeli soldiers.
He told MEE that at times his town resembled a burning battlefield, its beautiful tiled houses turning black under a cloud of smoke.
“We finished the noon prayer, then we heard screams on the northern side of the town. We rushed there and found the vehicles burning and everything on fire, which devoured the agricultural crops and trees,” Jabara said.
Ameer Makhoul, a Palestinian analyst specialised in Israel issues, said the attack on Turmusaya was “not settler aggression, but state terrorism”.
“Terrorist settler gangs are an integral part of the occupying state, and their job is to commit acts of genocide and intimidation of the Palestinians so that their state escapes responsibility and legal accountability,” he told MEE.
“Terrorist gangs alongside the regular forces are an integral part of Zionist ideology.”
He said the tactics of Israel using irregular thugs alongside troops can be seen from February’s attack on Huwwara to the Nakba of 1948, when more than 300,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes.
“This is what the Arab student movement witnessed in Israeli universities in the 70s and the beginning of the 80s when the police allied with the universities’ security, the Shin Bet and criminal gangs to suppress Arab students.”
Makhoul described the settlers as “seemingly unofficial tools to implement the official pro-annexation policies of the Israeli government in the West Bank”, led by far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich.
Turmusaya is located along the main road connecting the cities of Ramallah and Nablus.
Around 4,000 people live in the town, with 14,000 other Palestinians from Turmusaya living abroad, primarily in the United States.