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Six killed in Israeli raid on Jenin as settlers attack Palestinian town again



HUWARA, West Bank — At least six Palestinians were killed and 10 were wounded Tuesday in an Israeli military raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed the raid — the latest in a series of increasingly deadly incursions this year targeting Palestinian armed groups in the West Bank — but offered no other details.

More than 60 Palestinians have been killed this year by Israeli security forces and settlers. At least 14 Israelis have been killed in attacks by Palestinians.

The raid came hours after Israeli settlers attacked the Palestinian community of Huwara in the occupied West Bank for the second time in just over a week late Monday, an outburst of violence during festivities for the Jewish holiday of Purim that followed calls by far-right politicians for the town to be destroyed.

A family of five had just finished shopping at a grocery store in the city around 9.30 p.m. and had got into their car outside when hooded settlers arrived and attacked with rocks and an ax, according to the account of the family members and security footage from the store. Store workers rushed to close the shutters.

Israeli settlers in the West Bank town of Huwara attacked a Palestinian family outside of a supermarket on March 6, one week after a violent rampage. (Video: Reuters)

“It felt like it was revenge,” said Omar Khalifa, 27, who was in the vehicle at the time with his parents, wife and 2-year-old daughter. Khalifa’s arm was lightly injured with the ax, he said, while his 67-year-old father remained in a hospital Tuesday after being hit in the head with a rock and receiving stitches.

The others suffered the effects of pepper spray that was showered through the windows. After they managed to drive off, they were pursued and shot at, family members said.

In a statement, the IDF confirmed the attacks, describing them as “a number of violent riots in the town of Huwara, during which several violent confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli civilians took place.” It added that the crowds were dispersed.

Emboldened by Israel’s far right, Jewish settlers fan the flames of chaos

The violence in Huwara after sundown, at the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Purim, followed a settler rampage through the village and surrounding area the previous Sunday, which some Israeli commentators likened to a “pogrom.” One 37-year-old Palestinian was shot dead, and dozens of homes and businesses were set on fire.

The attack was in response to the shooting deaths of two Israeli brothers, ages 19 and 21, a few days earlier, which had triggered calls for retribution.

After the rampage, far-right Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich went even further, saying, “The village of Huwara needs to be wiped out. I think the state of Israel should do it.”

Davidi Ben-Zion, the deputy director of the Samaria Regional Council, which oversees Israel’s illegal West Bank settlements — who initially had also called for the town to be “erased” — said that Palestinians had thrown rocks at a Jewish car in the village Monday evening.

“Only by a miracle can we now continue the joy of the holiday,” he tweeted. “It must not be allowed to continue, simply must not, we already know what comes after the stone.”

The Israeli military said it could not immediately provide a comment on whether any rocks were thrown at Jewish cars ahead of the supermarket attack.

The burning of homes and businesses last week focused scrutiny on the role of Israel’s security forces, with a military official ultimately conceding that forces had been too slow to intervene during the initial violence. On Tuesday, human rights groups asked how settlers had once again managed to attack the village.

“The soldiers who were present did not act to prevent the violence,” Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights organization that tracks settler violence, said in a statement. “The pogroms in Huwara also continue as part of the settlers’ Purim celebrations.”

Several videos purporting to be shot in the vicinity of Huwara on Monday evening showed Israeli security forces dancing alongside settlers to Purim music. The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem said in a statement that it was working to verify the footage and was investigating the exact location. “The perpetrators of such pogroms are not held accountable for their crimes, backed by the State of Israel,” it said.

In its statement, the IDF acknowledged the footage and said it was under review: “The actions of the soldiers are not aligned with the behavior expected from IDF soldiers during operational activity.”

A new generation of Palestinian fighters is rising up in the West Bank

Last week, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price described Smotrich’s remarks about Huwara as “irresponsible” and “repugnant.” Smotrich and Ben-Zion have backed off their earlier comments.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later thanked Smotrich for “making it clear” that his choice of words was “inappropriate.”

In recent days, settlers posted warnings online that they would attack the village again. Security officials quoted in the Israeli media said that an attack could come on the Sabbath ahead of Purim.

The Jewish holiday of Purim, marked by drinking, revelry and fancy dress, has an underlying message of revenge and vanquishing enemies. It was during the holiday in 1994 that Baruch Goldstein opened fire on hundreds of Palestinian worshipers in a mosque in Hebron, killing 29 people.

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