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Settler who killed Palestinian in Nablus not being investigated as criminal suspect

May 18, 2017 7:46 P.M. (Updated: May 25, 2017 4:25 P.M.)
A Palestinian grieves next to the body of 23-year-old Muataz Hussein Hilal Bani Shamsa
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Israeli settler who shot and killed one Palestinian and injured another on Thursday near the Huwwara village, south of Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank, is not being investigated by Israeli police as a criminal suspect, according to Israeli news daily Haaretz.

Haaretz identified the settler, who shot and killed 23-year-old Muataz Hussein Hilal Bani Shamsa during clashes on a shared Palestinian-Israeli settler road in Huwwara, as a resident of the nearby illegal Itamar settlement.

After the settler shot and killed Bani Shamsa, injured Palestinian journalist Majdi Ishtayeh with live ammunition, and injured three other Palestinians when he rammed his car into a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance, the settler went to Israeli police and filed a complaint against the crowd of Palestinians he opened fire on, claiming they were attempting to “lynch” him.

"An Israeli citizen was brutally attacked by a group of Palestinian assailants who threw rocks at his car and tried to murder him, my inquiries suggest," Israel’s Education Minister and chairman of the extreme right-wing Jewish Home party Naftali Bennett said in response to the incident.

Haaretz quoted Bennett as saying that the settler acted "in order to prevent a lynching, he fired at his attackers and killed one of them,” adding that “rocks kill,” referring to the clashes that were occurring around the settler at the time of the shooting, in which Israeli forces fired tear gas at Palestinian protesters who were throwing rocks.

"If the Israeli citizen, who is a social worker and a father, had not acted as he did, the State of Israel today would have had to look his orphaned children in the eye. Any one of us, as a parent, as a citizen, would have acted" as the settler did, Bennett said.

Witnesses told Ma’an at the time of the incident that clashes erupted after Israeli forces attempted to suppress a protest that was being held in support of Palestinian hunger-striking prisoners.

According to the witnesses, the settler, who drove into the middle of the clashes, stepped out of his car and opened fire indiscriminately on the crowd of Palestinians, shooting Bani Shamsa in the head, killing him.

Head of the ambulance and emergency department of the Palestinian Red Crescent Ahmad Jibril told Ma’an that following the shooting, the settler had hit a Red Crescent ambulance with his car, as the ambulance was on its way to the location where Bani Shamsa was shot.

The settler hit three Palestinians during the vehicular incident, Jibril said, adding that the three had sustained minor injuries from the settler's car.

An Israeli police spokesperson was not immediately for comment to confirm reports that the settler was not being investigated for Bani Shamsa’s killing.

Shortly after the shooting, an Israeli settler, under the protection of Israeli soldiers, was filmed distributing candy to passing Israeli vehicles south of Nablus in celebration of Bani Shamsa’s killing.

Between 500,000 and 600,000 Israelis live in Jewish-only settlements across occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank in violation of international law.

Palestinian activists and rights groups have long accused Israel of fostering a “culture of impunity” for Israeli settlers and soldiers committing violent acts against Palestinians.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there were a total of 107 reported settler attacks against Palestinians and their properties in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem in 2016.

In March, Israeli NGO Yesh Din revealed that Israeli authorities served indictments in only 8.2 percent of cases of Israeli settlers committing anti-Palestinian crimes in the occupied West Bank in the past three years.

Palestinian stone-throwers, in stark contrast, face harsh penalties by Israeli authorities, including up to 20 years in prison if charged with throwing stones at vehicles and a minimum prison sentence of three years for throwing a stone at an Israeli.

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