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Israel's Smotrich wants 'another Nakba', says former defence minister

For right-wing minister Bezalel Smotrich, 'escalation is desirable' after settlers rampage through Palestinian town, says Benny Gantz
Palestinians walk near cars burned in an attack by Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank on 27 February 2023.
Palestinians walk near cars burned in an attack by Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank, on 27 February 2023 (Reuters)

Former Israeli defence minister Benny Gantz has said that far-right minister Bezalel Smotrich is supporting the settler violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, adding that Smotrich "wants another Nakba".

"Smotrich wants to cause another Palestinian Nakba - for him, escalation is a desirable thing," Gantz told Army Radio.

The Nakba, which means "the catastrophe" in Arabic, is the name given to the massacres and forced expulsion Palestinians endured at the hands of Zionist militias in 1948, as the new Israeli state came into existence. 

Entire Palestinian villages were destroyed, with Zionist gangs indiscriminately killing unarmed civilians and burying some in mass graves. The Nakba left an estimated 15,000 Palestinians dead and some 750,000 fleeing their homes to live as refugees.

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Gantz, who is leader of the National Unity Party in Israel, said he was "disturbed" by the support Israeli settlers who rampaged through a Palestinian town have received, describing them as a "militia with backing from some coalition figures".

"This is a very dangerous slope, one that cannot be allowed to stand," Gantz told Radio 103 in a separate interview, as quoted by The Times of Israel.

Hundreds of Israeli settlers, with the protection of Israeli forces, attacked Palestinian towns and villages near Nablus on Sunday, following a shooting that killed two Israelis in the town of Huwwara earlier in the day.  

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

Before and after the mob violence took place, several Israeli politicians seemed to encourage or support the settlers' actions. 

Smotrich, the finance minister who is also responsible for the occupied West Bank civil administration, liked a tweet that called for Israeli politicians to show no mercy and that the "village of Huwwara should be erased today".

Settler groups publicly announced their intention to carry out "revenge" in Huwwara on Sunday, and even shared the information on social media.

Settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank 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. 

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.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces resumed their nightly raids in the occupied West Bank overnight. They have become a regular occurrence for Palestinians in the occupied territories, inflaming tensions since Israel intensified them last year.

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