Attacks by Israeli settlers surge as West Bank tensions boil

Awad Naasam looks through the broken window of his tractor, which he said Jewish settlers tried to steal, in al-Mughayyir, West Bank. (photo: Kobi Wolf / The Washington Post)
A more sympathetic US policy toward settlements may have emboldened the extremist youths who carry out reprisal attacks.

By Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash | The Washington Post | Mar 6, 2019

‘Among that settler ideology, there are people that look and say there is no reason why anyone should stop us. . . . There is a right-wing government in Israel and a friend in the White House.’
— Lior Amihai, executive director of Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group

Palestinians in this town woke one morning last month to find their mosque vandalized, with a Star of David painted on the exterior alongside Hebrew graffiti accusing it of preaching “incitement.”

“We are at an alarming point,” said Barakat Mahmoud, the mosque’s imam. “We’ve never had direct confrontation with the settlers in this town.”

The incident was one in a recent spate of attacks blamed on Israeli settlers that officials on both sides of the conflict say are spiking. Israel’s security agency, Shin Bet, documented 295 of what it calls “Jewish terror” incidents last year, a 40 percent increase.

Although no Israeli government figures were available for January, the United Nations had recorded at least 30 incidents this year in which Israeli settlers were accused of causing casualties or damaging property, with a total of 14 Palestinians injured and one killed.

The most serious incident took place in January near the rural West Bank village of al-Mughayyir, when a Palestinian was shot dead, allegedly by settlers belonging to a volunteer security team for the nearby Israeli settlements. According to the United Nations, nine other Palestinians suffered gunshot wounds when the settlers opened fire during a confrontation on the outskirts of the village.

Israeli monitoring groups say the surge in settler violence, in part, reflects a lack of Israeli law enforcement and a response to a rash of particularly distressing attacks by Palestinians against Israelis.

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