Israeli Settlers Attack Huwara, an Escalation of Violence in Occupied Palestine

The West Bank town of Huwara, during an attack against Palestinians by Israeli settlers on February 27. Image source: Hisham KK Abu Shaqra/Anadolu Agency via Al Jazeera.

Israel’s right-wing government has given a blank check to the most extreme violence against Palestinians, and the results are clear. On Sunday, Israeli settlers carried out a mass attack on the village of Huwara, south of the Palestinian city of Nablus. This marks an escalation of violent attacks against the Palestinians in the occupied territories, with more conflict on the horizon.

Events unfolded starting Wednesday, February 22, when Israeli military forces raided Nablus, killing eleven Palestinians and wounding dozens more. The following Sunday, a young Palestinian retaliated, killing two Israeli settlers in the illegal Israeli settlement of Har Bracha, located near the Palestinian village of Huwara. In response, just hours later, hundreds of Israeli settlers rampaged through Huwara. Almost 400 Palestinian villagers were injured and one was killed. Shops, homes and cars were burned as the settlers trashed the village.

Nablus is a city of 150,000 people, located in the West Bank, which is made up of Palestinian territories that have been militarily occupied by the state of Israel since 1967. Since that time, the West Bank has been flooded with Israeli settlers, illegal occupiers of Palestinian land, armed and protected by the state of Israel, whose goal is to colonize and incorporate the West Bank into Israel’s territory. Today there are more than 675,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank, more than one fifth of the West Bank’s total population. These settlers violently seize Palestinian land and destroy property on a regular basis. Only four percent of settler attacks against Palestinians are ever prosecuted.

While Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu urged settlers not to seek revenge, his extremist security minister Itamir Ben Gvir called for the legalization of settlements and harsh, collective punishment of the families and neighbors of Palestinians who resist or retaliate against settlers. No wonder the settlers feel emboldened to carry out such attacks.

The Monday after the attack on Huwara, another settler was killed while driving in the West Bank. No gunman was identified, but it is widely believed to be another case of Palestinian retaliation. Later that day, settlers attacked a Palestinian ambulance traveling to Ramallah from Jenin, and on Tuesday, another settler mob attacked the village of Deir Sharaf, near Huwara.

The most important thing to understand is that this violence is happening in a context of colonization and genocide. Palestinians have been squeezed in a vice by Israeli military and state policy since the foundation of the State of Israel on Palestinian land in 1948. Since militarily occupying the West Bank in 1967, the state of Israel has allowed extremist settlers to colonize the territory with hardly any limits.

Palestinian resistance and retaliation is understandable in this situation. President Biden and the United States have urged calm and restraint, but this is ridiculous, given the billions of dollars in military and economic aid that the U.S. has sent to Israel since 1967 in order to maintain a powerful armed ally in the region. The attack on Huwara, and the escalation of violence in Israel is only a sign of worse to come. We must condemn the state of Israel, its policies, and the complicity of the U.S. government in this ongoing atrocity perpetrated against the Palestinian people.