Israelis enacted more illegal collective punishment against Palestinians in Huwara

An image of dozens of burned cars after Israeli settlers rioted in Huwara attacking Palestinians
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Israeli settlers rampaged through the Palestinian town of Huwara in the occupied West Bank overnight on Monday 27 February. They killed one person and injured hundreds.

Rights groups B’Tselem and Peace Now branded the settlers’ actions as a ‘pogrom’. What the violence shows is that illegal collective punishment is entrenched in Israel. Yet so far, little is being done to stop it.

Huwara: Israelis attack occupied West Bank town

Dozens of Israeli settlers set homes and cars ablaze in the northern town of Huwara overnight. They and the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) injured more than 350 Palestinians. Many of them suffered from tear gas inhalation, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said.

Some people reported on social media that Israeli settlers were also stabbing Palestinians. The Palestinian health ministry said Israelis shot dead one local, Sameh Aqtash, in the nearby village of Zaatara.

Sameh’s brother Abdel Moneim told AFP he and his brother were standing outside a blacksmith’s workshop when Israeli settlers attacked them. However, it’s Israeli security forces that Abdel Moneim accused of killing his brother:

[Israeli settlers] left the area and then came back with the occupation (Israeli) army… The army shot my brother, not the settlers.

Meanwhile, Huwara resident Diaa Odeh told AFP:

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They burned the cars and the houses and destroyed everything… Whenever we started to push the settlers back, the army was firing tear gas at us.

Huwara’s municipality said 30 houses were burned or damaged and over 100 cars were torched. Former head of the municipality Mansour Addamidi told Haaretz that Israelis:

raided the Palestinian homes outside and inside the neighbourhood. We were totally helplessness.

The Israeli army and the settlers are on the same side and no one is stopping them. We no longer recognise who’s a soldier and who’s a settler, as many of the settlers are in military uniform and carrying weapons.

Settlers ‘celebrating’ their “pogrom”

Israeli settlers were seen dancing after the attacks:

Some were also filmed praying after the attack:

As editor-in-chief of 972 Magazine Edo Konrad tweeted, the IDF and settlers working together against Palestinians is nothing new:

The Israeli military told AFP no one had been arrested over the arson or the killing of Aqtash. Of course, Israelis have defended the attacks as being in response to another incident. Gunmen killed two Israeli settlers – brothers Yagel and Hallel Yaniv – on Sunday 26 February as they drove through Huwara. Before this, there was the Israeli raid on Nablus, where soldiers killed 11 people including a child.

As the Canary‘s Afroze Fatima Zaidi previously wrote:

2022 was the deadliest year in the territory since the United Nations (UN) started tracking casualties in 2005. Moreover, Wednesday’s attack on Nablus was the deadliest Israeli army raid in the occupied West Bank in nearly 20 years.

Settlers acting out what several human rights groups called a ‘pogrom’ on Huwara is indefensible – and likely illegal.

Collective punishment

Previously, Israeli forces occupied and planned to demolish homes belonging to relatives of Palestinians accused of killing Israelis. The NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) called this collective punishment. This is illegal under international law and can be considered a war crime.

Shawan Jabarin, director of Al-Haq Palestinian Human Rights organization, told Arab News in January:

These collective punishments are war crimes that the Israeli government takes against the Palestinians, as it punishes people who have nothing to do with those who carry out attacks against the Israeli occupiers.

The one who carried out the attack was killed, so why should his family be punished? And why, if a Palestinian act against the Israelis, (will) the entire society will be punished.

Meanwhile, the so-called ‘international community’ can barely bring itself to call Israel’s actions illegal. Germany and France have issued mealy-mouthed words around “de-escalation” and warnings of the situation spinning out of control. However, no amount of tokenistic words can change the reality. Israelis attacking Huwara is collective punishment, endorsed by the state as shown by the presence of the IDF. And with a far-right government now entrenching Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians, little will change.

Featured image via Agence France-Presse

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