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Israeli settlers attack Palestinian cars, erect new outpost in protests

July 23, 2017 1:30 P.M. (Updated: July 23, 2017 6:26 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Amid an increasingly volatile atmosphere in the occupied Palestinian territory, a number of violent marches were launched by Israelis settlers residing in the occupied West Bank in contravention of international law, blocking roads and attacking Palestinians and their property, locals told Ma'an.

The incidents came after a day of major upheaval on Friday, as Palestinians demonstrating against new Israeli security measures at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound -- imposed after a deadly attack there last Friday -- were violently suppressed by Israeli forces, and three Palestinians were shot dead, two by Israeli forces and one by an Israeli settler.

Later that night, a Palestinian infiltrated the illegal Israeli settlement of Halamish and stabbed and killed three Israelis in their home, in an apparent reaction to Israeli attacks on Palestinians and violations at Al-Aqsa that occurred that day, according to a Facebook post by the assailant who was shot and detained.

A Halamish spokeswoman was quoted in Israeli media as saying that there was “no connection” between the ongoing crisis in occupied East Jerusalem and the stabbing attack.

“We have always reached out to our neighbors in peace but the incitement and murder continues. We call upon the government of Israel to return security to our community and all of Israel immediately,” she reportedly said.

Local sources said that overnight Saturday, Israeli settlers protested near Halamish, which is north of Ramallah city, as scores of Israeli settlers marched in multiple locations, many of them attacking Palestinians in the presence of Israeli forces, though no attacks were reported near Halamish specifically.

Israeli news site Ynet reported that hundreds of Halamish residents set up a new outpost at a nearby junction, blocked the eastern road to the settlement to Palestinian movement, and demanded the Israeli government approve new constructions in the illegal settlement, as well as increase security measures.

The settlers of Halamish reportedly demand that the road be closed to Palestinian movement permanently, and the settlers have taken to block that road themselves by placing a shipping container on it.

The protesters prepared for a long stay at the outpost with tents, chairs, and tables, Ynet wrote, and said Israeli forces had arrived to the scene.

East of Halamish in the northern Ramallah district, hundreds of Israeli settlers protested at the entrance to the Palestinian village of Beitin and near the illegal Israeli settlement of Ofra and Shilo, throwing rocks at Palestinian vehicles. Others gathered at the main road near the town of Silwad in the same vicinity.

A number of violent marches were also reported in the northern occupied West Bank district of Nablus, known for its ideologically extreme illegal Israeli settlements and outposts.

Eyewitnesses said tens of Israeli settlers threw rocks at Palestinian vehicles at the entrance of Sarra west of Nablus.

Israeli settlers also attacked Palestinian vehicles with rocks and closed the main road connecting Nablus to the Qalqiliya district to the east, near the illegal Qedumim settlement.

Israeli settlers closed road leading to to the village of Shufa near Tulkarem city, and also closed Route 60 at the entrance of the village of al-Lubban al-Sharqiya. Palestinians said Israelis opened fire on locals and also fired tear gas at Palestinian homes in the village.

Israeli settlers also closed the road connecting the village of Huwwara to Israel's Huwwara military checkpoint near the illegal Yitzhar settlement south of Nablus city.

Israeli settlers also attacked Palestinian homes in Asira al-Qibliya in the Nablus district, according to local reports.

In the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, Israeli settlers launched a march from the illegal Kiryat Arba settlement and closed the adjacent bypass road. Another group of settlers from Kiryat Arba gathered at the entrances to the Beit Einun village and threw rocks at Palestinian vehicles, with Israeli forces providing protection to the settlers, according to locals.

Israeli settlers also threw rocks at Palestinian vehicles north and south of Hebron City.

Eyewitnesses said that a group of Israeli settlers from the Otniel settlement south of Hebron threw rocks at Palestinian vehicles as well.

An Israeli army spokesperson said they were looking into reports of each incident, but said such cases are usually under the jurisdiction of border police. An Israeli police spokesperson said he was not aware of any incidents of protesting Israeli settlers or attacks on Palestinians and their property overnight.

While the hundreds of thousands of Israelis living in Jewish-only settlements across occupied the West Bank in violation of international law are permitted to carry guns, and are rarely held accountable for stone throwing or similar attacks, Palestinians face up to 20 years in prison for throwing stones where intent to harm could be proven, and 10 years where it could not.

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, according to Israeli NGO Yesh Din.
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