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Israeli settlers torch cars, vandalize property during attack on Ramallah-area village

Aug. 9, 2017 5:39 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 9, 2017 8:16 P.M.)
A Palestinian stands next to a graffiti reading in Hebrew "Revenge" after an Israeli settler attack in the village of Duma in 2015 (AFP/Jaafar Ashtiyeh/File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli settlers set fire to two Palestinian-owned vehicles on Wednesday in the village of Umm Safa in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah in an alleged revenge attack for three Israeli settlers who were killed by a Palestinian in the nearby Halamish settlement last month.

Palestinian news agency Wafa received testimony from Marwan Sabah, the village council head, who said that Israeli settlers had set fire to the vehicles around 2:30 a.m.

While Israeli soldiers were reportedly stationed at the entrance of the village at night, the settlers attacked homes on the outskirts of the village after the soldiers had left, Sabah said.

However, Israeli soldiers are rarely able to control Israeli settlers, and reports often emerge of Israeli soldiers watching settler attacks on Palestinians without intervening. If any action is taken by Israeli soldiers, it is typically in the form of shooting "crowd control measures," such as tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets, and often live ammunition, at Palestinians.

The settlers had also reportedly graffitied hate slogans on walls in the village, calling for revenge attacks on Palestinians in response to a deadly attack last month when a Palestinian from the Ramallah-area village of Kobar entered the Halamish settlement and stabbed three Israeli settlers to death.

According to the Israeli army, the incident would be under the jurisdiction of the Israeli police. However, an Israeli police spokesperson was not immediately available to comment.

According to Sabah, Israeli forces arrived in the village in the morning following the attack “to examine the area.” An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an she would look into any follow-up reports on the incident.

Israeli forces raided Kobar village in the predawn hours of Wednesday, detaining the father and uncle of the Halamish attacker, 19-year-old Omar al-Abed. Three others from the village were also detained during clashes that left 15 injured, some with live fire.

Last week, some 200 settlers from the Halamish settlement attacked the Kobar village. Israeli forces responded by violently suppressing clashes that had broken out between the settlers and Palestinian locals, which resulted in one Palestinian being injured by live ammunition shot by the Israeli army.

An upwards of some 600,000 Israeli settlers reside in occupied Palestinian territory in violation of international law. The international community has repeatedly called their presence and rising population the main impediment to potential peace in the region.

The UN reported on Saturday that after a three-year decline of settler attacks on Palestinians, the first half of 2017 showed a major increase in such attacks, with 89 incidents being documented so far this year.

“On a monthly average, this represents an increase of 88 percent compared with 2016,” the UN said. The attacks during this time period have led to the deaths of three Palestinians.

Israeli media has reported that the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, has also warned the Israeli government over the alarming trend and has “called on the government to adopt urgent measures to prevent further deterioration,” according to the UN.

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.

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.

Meanwhile, Palestinians allegedly or actually committing any attacks on Israelis are often shot dead at the scene, in what rights groups have deemed "extrajudicial executions," or face long prison sentences.
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