Israeli colonists set fire to a Palestinian home on Sunday. The attack was part of an escalating pattern of settler violence against Palestinians in the Huwara area.
Ahmad Maher Awashra lives in the village of Sinjil, on the outskirts of Huwara. He told Independent Middle East Media Center that he woke up when he heard flames crackling in the kitchen. He quickly took his sleeping children from their beds to safety outside.
The attack in Sinjil echoes the 2015 attack on the Dawabsheh family in the nearby village of Douma. The Dawabsheh family were murdered by a settler arsonist, who set their house on fire while they slept.
The arson attack was just one of the latest incidents in a campaign of violence by Israeli colonists against the Palestinian community of Huwara, close to Nablus.
A pogrom that hasn’t stopped
On 27 February, a group of Israeli colonists attacked the village of Huwara, killing one person and injuring hundreds. Thirty houses were either burned or damaged during the attack. A mob of 400 settlers reportedly took part in the violence.
The Canary’s Steve Topple wrote at the time:
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.
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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.
Settlers and their supporters justified the attack on Huwara by saying it was retaliation for a Palestinian resistance action where two Israeli settlers were killed while driving through Huwara. However, the episode was dubbed a ‘pogrom’ by Israeli anti-occupation groups.
The colonists were the ones who initiated the 27 February attack on Huwara, but the army backed them up. Bezalel Smotrich, a senior minister in the Israeli government, egged them on too. When interviewed about the Huwara attack, Smotrich said that he thought Huwara should be “wiped out”. His chilling words were:
the village of Huwara needs to be wiped out. I think the State of Israel should do it
Comments like these have emboldened Israeli settlers, who know that the state and the army will continue supporting them. And the attacks on the village of Huwara have continued ever since.
A pattern of army-backed colonial violence.
This pattern of army-backed settler violence is the norm in the West Bank. For example, Israeli colonists attacked houses in the village of Asira Al-Qibliyya, close to Nablus, on 28 March. Villagers tried to defend themselves and force the attackers to leave. But when the army arrived, the soldiers responded by firing tear gas and live ammo at the local residents.
To give a couple more examples, Hafez Hurreini lives in At-Tuwani in the South Hebron Hills. He had his arm broken in 2022, when Israeli colonists attacked him while he was on his land outside the village. When the Israeli forces arrived, Hafez was arrested, and remanded in prison, accused of an assault on his attackers. He was only released when footage surfaced showing what really happened.
Gassim Hamad Tahan lives in the nearby village of Mufagara. He told The International Solidarity Movement Podcast about the day in September 2021 when soldiers had looked on as armed settlers attacked his village. A child was hospitalised during the attack. Gassim said:
[a] very big huge number of settlers from the illegal outposts of Havat Ma’on and Avigail, they gathered and they attacked this village, brutally. And the army were with them, even they were like saving them, you know, and protecting them. They were having guns, they were throwing stones on the houses
More settler violence this morning
The settler violence continued apace yesterday, 27 March, enabled by the military.
Six Palestinians were injured in a new attack on Huwara, that began as residents were breaking their daily fast for Ramadan. Ambulances were targeted after colonists invaded the village.
Al Jazeera reported that soldiers looked on as settlers threw stones at a Palestinian ambulance:
Watch: Israeli soldiers facilitate the attack targeting Palestinian vehicles, including an ambulance which carried vital medical equipment.
The attackers used their vehicles to block the road, and relied on the military to fend off resistance by locals.pic.twitter.com/EiVM6cvzEP
— Jalal (@JalalAK_jojo) March 28, 2023
Two ambulances were reported damaged, and the colonists set fire to a truck.
Mob violence, backed up by the state and the military.
The attacks in Huwara, and elsewhere in the West Bank, are being perpetrated by settlers. However, they are also constantly emboldened by the support they receive from the military and right-wing Israeli politicians. Of course, in some ways, this is nothing new. But Israel is now led by what is widely regarded as its most right-wing government ever, and by a president who is currently trying to change the law to prevent his own impeachment. These conditions only add to the virtual impunity that colonists enjoy for their attacks on Palestinians, and could pave the way for ever more bloody acts of ethnic cleansing.
The people of Palestine need support now more than ever. Check out the latest calls for support here.
Featured image shows Israeli settlers attacking an ambulance in Huwara, as the army protects them . Via Jalal/Screenshot
- Campaign group Palestine Action is planning a ‘siege’ of Israeli weapons company Elbit’s premises in Leicester, from 1 May. You can find our more here.
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