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Settler violence after shooting death

Dec. 24, 2009 5:16 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 27, 2009 9:22 A.M.)
Nablus – Ma'an – Israeli settlers rampaged through West Bank villages south of Nablus on Thursday evening after a settler was shot dead, residents said.

Residents said dozens of Israelis from the settlement of Yitzhar stormed the village of Burin, firing weapons and attempting to set fire to at least one house. Settlers also pelted Palestinians with stones they said.

An Israeli military spokesperson denied that settlers had opened fire. Israeli forces had dispersed angry crowds of settlers and Palestinian residents after a 14-year-old Israeli was hit with a rock following the settlers’ death, the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile Israeli soldiers repositioned themselves at military Checkpoint 17, in the village of Asira Ash-Shamaliya, north of Nablus, according to witnesses.

Israeli forces also entered the village of Taluza, north of Nablus, witnesses said, adding that a burnt-out white Volkswagen Golf was found at the entrance of the village. Settlers were suspected to have set fire to the vehicle.

Israeli soldiers also sealed the Huwwara military checkpoint, at the southern entrance to Nablus, stopping all traffic, as well as all entrances to the nearby city of Tulkarem. Dozens of other military roadblocks were set up across the northern West Bank, local sources reported.

Palestinians also said dozens of cars were waiting at the DCO checkpoint east of the city of Qalqiliya, waiting while soldiers intensively checked each vehicle.

The violence was in apparent retaliation for the killing of an Israeli settler on Thursday afternoon.

The Israeli military said the man was killed while driving near Nablus.

“An Israeli man was killed by gunfire while traveling near [the settlement] Shave Shomron,” a military spokesperson told Ma’an.

Israeli forces were searching the area, the spokeswoman added. The victim, apparently a settler, was retrieved by Israel's Magen David Adom ambulance service, according to reports.

The settler was later identified on Israeli news websites as Meir Hai, 45, a resident of Shave Shomron and a rabbi.

An organization calling itself the Imad Mughniya Group and proclaiming affiliation to Fatah's Al-Aqsa Brigades claimed responsibility in an email for the shooting.

“Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades Group of the Martyr Imad Mughniya claim firing on a settler car in the north of the West Bank between the settlement Shave Shomron and Enab,” the message said.

"The resistance fighters affirmed that those who were in the car sustained injuries after being shot directly," the statement also said.

The group said its members "withdrew from the area safely." It also warned of "a series of attacks to come."

The self-proclaimed militant group is named after the late military chief of the Lebanese movement Hizbullah, who was killed in a car bombing in Syria in 2008.

Maj Gen Adnan Dimeiri, the spokesman of the Palestinian Authority security forces, told Ma’an the incident was under investigation, but initial findings suggested the man was killed in a car accident.

Following the shooting, Palestinian residents also reported that Israeli forces were searching the area around the village of Ramin, east of the city of Tulkrarem.
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