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West Bank sees some of its worst violence since war in Gaza began as Israeli teen’s body is found

In World
April 13, 2024

Al-MUGHAYYIR, West Bank (AP) — Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank went on the largest rampage against Palestinians there since the war in Gaza began, as Israel’s army said Saturday the body of a missing Israeli teen was found after he was killed in a “terrorist attack.” Witnesses said settlers assaulted a number of communities.

The Israeli military said dozens of people were injured in confrontations in several locations, with shots fired and rocks thrown. It did not specify how many Palestinians and Israelis were hurt. Several companies with the defense forces were deployed and “all of the incidents have concluded,” it asserted.

The disappearance of 14-year-old Binyamin Achimair sparked the attacks on Palestinian villages on Friday and Saturday. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in a statement on social media urged people not to take the law into their own hands in the territory where tensions have simmered for months.

On Friday, Palestinian Jehad Abu Alia was killed and 25 others were wounded in the attack on al-Mughayyir village, Palestinian health officials said. On Saturday, Israeli troops delayed for several hours the ambulance carrying the 26-year-old man’s body for burial, witnesses said.

Dozens of Israeli settlers returned to the village’s outskirts on Saturday, burning 12 homes and several cars. The Palestinian Health Ministry said three people from the village were injured, one critically. Border police fired tear gas toward villagers who gathered, trying to disperse them.

“They entered the house and burned it and burned cars, as you can see,” 42-year-old Akef Abu Allu said, looking at his blackened two-story home in al-Mughayyir.

In the nearby village of Douma, Israeli settlers set fire to around 15 homes and 10 farms, the head of the local village council, Slieman Dawabsheh, told The Associated Press, saying he had been there. “The army came but unfortunately, the army were protecting the settlers,” he said, asserting that it fired tear gas and rubber bullets at Palestinians trying to confront and expel them.

The Israeli military didn’t respond to questions. The Palestinian Red Crescent said six people were injured by gunfire but did not say who fired.

The Israeli human rights group Yesh Din in a statement said at least 10 villages in the West Bank were attacked by Israeli settlers, with homes and vehicles damaged.

Tensions in the West Bank have been especially high since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza on Oct. 7, sparked by the Hamas attack on southern Israel that killed about 1,200 people and took 250 hostages. More than 33,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed in Israel’s offensive, according to Gaza health officials.

Since then, Hamas has been trying to ignite other fronts, including in the West Bank, in hopes of exerting more pressure on Israel. Such efforts have largely failed, though more than 460 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank since Oct. 7, most in clashes sparked by army raids but some by vigilante settlers.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the killing of the Israeli teen.

According to Israeli media, the teen was last seen leaving the settler outpost of Malachei Shalom early Friday to tend to livestock nearby. The sheep returned to the outpost hours later without him, reports said.

Israel’s Channel 13 TV reported that Achimair’s body was discovered by a drone. The broadcaster said he was not shot but did not elaborate.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the killing. “We will get to the murderers and their helpers as we do to anyone who harms the citizens of the state of Israel,” he said in a statement issued by his office.

In 2014, the abduction and killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank escalated tensions and eventually ignited a 50-day Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, at the time the deadliest round of fighting between the two sides.

Consecutive Israeli governments have expanded Israeli settlement construction in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, territories the Palestinians seek for a future state, along with Gaza. Some are highly developed and resemble suburbs of Israeli cities, while smaller outposts often have only a few caravans.

While Israel has established scores of settlements across the occupied West Bank, the outposts are not authorized, though the government gives them tacit support. The international community overwhelmingly considers all West Bank settlements illegal and obstacles to peace.

Over 700,000 Israelis now live in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem — territories captured by Israel in 1967.

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