Israeli settlers rampage after Palestinian gunman kills two

As videos of the violence appeared on evening news shows, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appealed for calm and urged against vigilante violence. “I ask that when blood is boiling and the spirit is hot, don’t take the law into your hands,” Netanyahu said in a video statement.


The Israeli military said its chief of staff, Lieutenant General Herzl Halevi, was rushing to the scene and that forces were trying to restore order.

The rampage occurred shortly after the Jordanian government, which hosted Sunday’s talks at the Red Sea resort of Aqaba, said the sides had agreed to take steps to de-escalate tensions and would meet again next month ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

“They reaffirmed the necessity of committing to de-escalation on the ground and to prevent further violence,” the Jordanian Foreign Ministry announced.

After nearly a year of fighting that has killed over 200 Palestinians and more than 40 Israelis in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, the Jordanian announcement marked a small sign of progress. But the situation on the ground immediately cast those commitments into doubt.

The Palestinians claim the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip – areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war – for a future state. Some 700,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. The international community overwhelmingly considers the settlements as illegal and obstacles to peace.

The West Bank is home to a number of hard-line settlements whose residents frequently vandalise Palestinians land and property. But rarely is the violence so widespread.

Prominent members of Israel’s far-right government called for tough action against the Palestinians.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a settler leader who lives in the area and has been put in charge of much of Israel’s West Bank policy, called for “striking the cities of terror and its instigators without mercy, with tanks and helicopters.”

Using a phrase that calls for a more heavy-handed response, he said Israel should act “in a way that conveys that the master of the house has gone crazy.”

An Israeli ministerial committee gave initial approval to a bill that would impose the death penalty on Palestinians convicted in deadly attacks. The measure was sent to lawmakers for further debate.

There were also differing interpretations of what exactly was agreed to in Aqaba between the Palestinians and Israelis.

Jordan’s Foreign Ministry said the representatives agreed to work toward a “just and lasting peace” and had committed to preserving the status quo at Jerusalem’s contested holy site.

Palestinians examine a burnt car, which residents say was set on fire by Israeli settlers, in Burin village near the West Bank city of Nablus.

Palestinians examine a burnt car, which residents say was set on fire by Israeli settlers, in Burin village near the West Bank city of Nablus.Credit:AP

Tensions at the site revered by Jews as the Temple Mount and Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif have often spilled over into violence, and two years ago sparked an 11-day war between Israel and the Hamas militant group during Ramadan.

Officials with Israel’s government, the most right-wing in Israeli history, played down Sunday’s meeting.

A senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity under government guidelines, said only that the sides in Jordan agreed to set up a committee to work at renewing security ties with the Palestinians. The Palestinians cut off ties last month after a deadly Israeli military raid in the West Bank.

Netanyahu’s national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, who led the Israeli delegation said there were “no changes” in Israeli policies and that plans to build thousands of new settlement homes approved last week would not be affected.

He said “there is no settlement freeze” and “there is no restriction on army activity”.

The Jordanian announcement had said Israel pledged not to legalise any more outposts for six months or to approve any new construction in existing settlements for four months.

The Palestinians, meanwhile, said they had presented a long list of grievances, including an end to Israeli settlement construction on occupied lands and a halt to Israeli military raids on Palestinian towns.

Sunday’s shooting in Hawara came days after an Israeli military raid killed 10 Palestinians in the nearby city of Nablus. The shooting occurred on a major highway that serves both Palestinians and Israeli settlers. The two men who were killed were identified as brothers, ages 21 and 19, from the Jewish settlement of Har Bracha.

Hanegbi was joined by the head of Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security agency who attended the talks in neighbouring Jordan. The head of the Palestinian intelligence services as well as advisers to President Mahmoud Abbas also joined.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who has close ties with the Palestinians, led the discussions, while Egypt, another mediator, and the United States also participated.

In Washington, the US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, welcomed the meeting. “We recognise that this meeting was a starting point,” he said, adding that implementation will be critical.

It was a rare high-level meeting between the sides, illustrating the severity of the crisis and the concerns of increased violence as Ramadan approaches in late March.

In Gaza, Hamas, an Islamic militant group that seeks Israel’s destruction, criticised Sunday’s meeting and called the shooting a “natural reaction” to Israeli incursions in the West Bank.

Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. The Hamas militant group subsequently took control of the territory, and Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade over the territory.


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