Israeli security forces on Wednesday killed one Palestinian and arrested six others suspected of involvement in the fatal shooting of an Israeli-American in the occupied West Bank on Monday, the military said.
The incident came amid heightened tensions in the West Bank as Israeli police arrested 10 people, including a minor, for suspected involvement in a violent rampage by Israeli settlers at the weekend which followed a deadly Palestinian gun attack.
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Israeli security forces conducted a daylight raid on Wednesday in the Aqabat Jabr refugee camp adjacent to the city of Jericho, where they surrounded a home containing two men suspected of killing Israeli-American Elan Ganeles.
While one tried to flee, the other was shot and killed, a spokesman for the Israeli military told Reuters. Another two suspects then surrendered after being surrounded by Israeli soldiers, the military said. The military also conducted three additional arrests.
A Palestinian witness told Reuters that the man killed, identified by the Palestinian Health Ministry as 22-year-old Mahmoud Hamdan, was initially treated by Palestinian medics but Israeli soldiers halted treatment and took him to a military jeep – an assertion denied by a spokesman for the Israeli military. The man had received medical treatment but died on the way to hospital, the spokesman for the Israeli military said.
The arrests were made while Ganeles was being laid to rest after being shot on Monday while driving in the West Bank.
That shooting came a day after the settler rampage, in which one Palestinian was killed, scores were hurt and dozens of cars and homes torched. An Israeli general on Wednesday described Sunday’s rampage as a “pogrom.”
Members of the Israeli troops walk as they clash with Palestinians during a raid in Jericho in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, March 1, 2023. (Reuters)
Israeli police said on Wednesday they expected to make more arrests during their investigation into the settler violence in and around Huwara, a Palestinian village where the two Israeli brothers from a nearby settlement were shot dead on Sunday.
Major General Yehuda Fuchs, who commands the Israeli military in the area, said his forces had prepared for attempted settler retribution but had been surprised by the intensity of the violence, which he said was perpetrated by dozens of people.
“The incident in Huwara was a pogrom carried out by outlaws,” he told N12 News late on Tuesday.
“Collective punishment doesn’t help combating terrorism, on the contrary it might even cause terrorism,” he added.
A ‘pogrom’ is a mob attack, often approved by authorities, against a religious, racial, or national minority. The term is usually applied to attacks on Jews in the Russian Empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Fuchs’ comments came amid increased tensions within the nationalist-religious government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which includes hard-line settlers demanding tough action against Palestinian attacks.
One of them, far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, has called on people “not to take the law into their own hands”, while his Jewish Power party has accused Netanyahu of being weak on terrorism.
Israel’s far-right finance minister called for the Palestinian village of Huwara to be “erased”, at a conference on Wednesday when asked about a settler rampage.
“I think that Huwara needs to be erased,” Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich told the moderator. “I think that the state of Israel needs to do it, but God forbid not individual people.”
Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, in comments in Berlin on Tuesday likely to further stoke Palestinian anger, said Israeli settlements would continue to be built in the West Bank under the current government as under the previous one.
With the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and Jewish Passover festival weeks away, foreign mediators have sought to tamp down tensions that have surged after a spate of deadly Palestinian street attacks and lethal Israeli military raids.
“I’m worried,” said US Ambassador Tom Nides at Tel Aviv University’s conference of the Institute for National Security Studies late on Tuesday.
“This is going to be a very complicated period of time we’re about to walk into, we’ve got to keep things as calm as possible to keep things from getting out of control, which could easily happen,” said Nides.
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