At least one Palestinian is killed and 100 others wounded, say health officials, while scores of homes, shops and cars are destroyed
Israeli settlers set fire to large portions of the northern West Bank town of Hawara Sunday evening following two fatal shootings carried out by a Palestinian gunman hours earlier.
At least one Palestinian identified as Sameh Hamdullah Mahmoud Aktech was killed during the evening attack, according to the Palestine Ministry of Health. He was shot several times in the abdomen.
Homes, shops, cars and agricultural land were set ablaze in Hawara, a town just outside of Nablus, with locals accusing Israeli forces of granting settlers open access to the Palestinian town.
Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian activist monitoring the expansion of Israeli settlements north of the West Bank, told Middle East Eye that as of 9:15 pm, local time, more than 30 homes had been destroyed, in addition to 15 cars and one shop that was burned down.
“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 has reported.
‘Our lives are in danger’
One 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 tires were thrown inside. His home was completely destroyed.
“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.
‘Sounds of assault were louder than everything: swearing in Hebrew, smashing windows, burning … It was very terrible’
– Fida Hamad, Hawara resident
“We were sitting in our homes, and suddenly we heard explosions and screams of panic. We learned that the settlers had attacked the town,” Hamad continued.
“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.”
The Palestinian Red Crescent confirmed at least 100 people have been wounded during the attack on the town. One Palestinian was seriously injured with head wounds after being hit by rocks, Haaretz reported.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, in a statement, charged the Israeli government with full responsibility for the attacks in Hawara and urged the international community to provide protection to the civilian population.
Meanwhile, Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset Aida Touma-Suleiman condemned the attacks, tweeting: “The settlers are committing a horrific crime tonight in Huwara – 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, its windows smashed. Several ambulances were also damaged according to reports on Twitter.
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 Hawara.
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 Hawara 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 considered illegal under international law.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a joint statement following Sunday’s initial shooting, announcing that the Knesset 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.
Meanwhile, Israeli and Palestinian leadership began 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.
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.
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