Palestinian killed as Israeli settlers rampage through West Bank in 'revenge' attacks
Ramallah, occupied Palestine - Israeli settlers rampaged through towns in the occupied West Bank on Sunday evening in revenge attacks, burning and attacking Palestinian homes and property for hours.
At least one Palestinian was killed and nearly 400 wounded in the attacks, Palestinian health officials said.
Sameh Hamdullah Aktech, 37, was shot dead in Za'tara town near Nablus. The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said its staff treated someone for stabbing wounds and at least two others suffered head injuries.
Homes, shops, cars and agricultural land were set ablaze by settlers who roamed the streets of several Palestinian towns, mainly near Nablus. Attacks were reported in Ramallah and Salfit.
PRCS said at least 35 homes were completely burned down and 40 others were partially damaged. More than 100 cars were burnt or destroyed, it added.
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The riots followed a shooting in the town of Huwwara earlier in the day by a suspected Palestinian which left two Israeli settlers killed.
Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian activist monitoring the expansion of Israeli settlements in the northern West Bank, told Middle East Eye at least one shop was burned down as of 9:15pm local time.
"What the settlers are doing tonight are war crimes similar to the events of the Nakba and the attacks of the Zionist gangs," Daghlas said, referring to the violent "catastrophe" of 1948 that lead to the creation of the State of Israel.
Nine Palestinian families have had to be rescued from their burning homes, Israel's Channel 12 news reported.
'Our lives are in danger'
One Huwwara resident, Ziyad Dmaidi, told MEE that he barely got his family to safety before his home was set on fire.
Dmaidi was returning from work when he saw a group of settlers heading towards his house, he said, recalling a feeling of panic as he rushed inside to gather his family.
Within minutes "dozens of settlers" began smashing in windows, breaking into the house. The family escaped just as burning rubber tyres were thrown inside. His home was completely destroyed.
'Sounds of assault were louder than everything: swearing in Hebrew, smashing windows, burning ... It was very terrible'
- Fida Hamad, Huwwara resident
"I never thought about the house or all our stuff, I was only thinking about my children and how to save them from this nightmare," Dmaidi said.
"We got out of the house and off to safety with the help of the ambulance crews who were also attacked while trying to evacuate us.
"Our lives are in danger and all this is happening while the Israeli soldiers stand around waiting only to protect the settlers," he continued.
Fida Hamad, another resident, told MEE that the settlers' attack was the largest she had ever experienced and that houses were set on fire with families still inside.
Large clouds of smoke billowed throughout the town to the constant sounds of screaming, she said.
"We were sitting in our homes, and suddenly we heard explosions and screams of panic. We learnt that the settlers had attacked the town," Hamad recalled.
"My children started crying and I tried to calm them down, but the sounds of assault were louder than everything: swearing in Hebrew, smashing windows, burning vehicles, homes, and shops ... It was very terrible."
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh charged the Israeli government with full responsibility for the attacks in Huwwara and urged the international community to provide protection to the civilian population.
Meanwhile, Aida Touma-Suleiman, a Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament, condemned the attacks, tweeting: "The settlers are committing a horrific crime tonight in Huwwara - burning homes while families are inside and wreaking havoc.
"They are acting in the spirit of the fascist government," Touma-Suleiman said. "I spoke to several ambassadors and asked them to intervene."
At least one Palestinian fire truck attempting to respond to the fires was attacked and its windows smashed. Several ambulances were also damaged, according to reports on social media. PRCS said they were prevented from reaching areas affected by the attacks in Huwwara for two hours.
Settlers 'seek revenge'
Earlier on Sunday, Hillel and Yagel Yaniv, two brothers from Har Bracha, an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank, were fatally shot in their car while driving through Huwwara.
The assailant rammed the vehicle, before shooting at the two and fleeing the scene. Just after the shooting, Israel's military said it was pursuing the perpetrator.
Israeli settlers issued calls to organise a march to Huwwara on social media to "seek revenge" for the attacks.
"Israeli settlers have been terrorising the Palestinian communities today, in the occupied West Bank, attacking civilians and torching down houses and businesses," the official account of the Palestinian mission to the UK tweeted, sharing a video of one of the fires and tagging Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and two Foreign Office Twitter accounts.
The occupied West Bank is home to about 2.9 million Palestinians as well as an estimated 475,000 Jewish settlers who live in state-approved settlements that are illegal under international law.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a joint statement following Sunday's initial shooting, announcing that parliament had passed legislation approving the death penalty for Palestinians convicted of terrorism offences against Israelis.
"On this difficult day when two Israeli citizens were murdered in a Palestinian terrorist attack, there is nothing more symbolic than passing a death penalty law for terrorists," the statement read.
Earlier on Sunday, Israeli and Palestinian officials held talks in Jordan to try to secure calm in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
At least 62 Palestinians have been killed by Israelis this year, at a rate of more than one fatality per day. Meanwhile, 12 Israeli civilians and one police officer have been killed by Palestinians in the same period.
This follows a steep increase in violence in 2022 when at least 167 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the highest death toll in those territories in a single year since the Second Intifada. Palestinian attacks killed 30 Israelis last year.
Fayha Shalash reported from Ramallah and Sheren Khalel from Florida.
This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.
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