occupy East Jerusalem – Israeli authorities have released all suspects arrested following a rampage by Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank on Sunday night that left one Palestinian dead, hundreds injured and Palestinian homes and property destroyed.
Israeli police told the Times of Israel that six suspects were released on Monday and another two were placed under house arrest on Tuesday. No other settlers are believed to have been arrested.
The Israeli government has been heavily criticized for its response to the attacks in several villages near Nablus, in which some 400 settlers took part.
Settlers committed shootings, arson and beating Palestinians with metal bars and stones, according to Palestinian media reports. About 390 Palestinians were injured, the majority from tear gas and smoke inhalation.
The Palestinian Authority said at least 30 Palestinian houses and more than 100 cars had been set on fire.
“Hundreds took part in the attack; hundreds of properties (were) set on fire. It is disparaging (the issue) that they arrested only eight — and then released the majority of them,” Palestinian political analyst Ismat Mansour told Al Jazeera.
The Israeli military did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment.
The release of the arrested settlers fits a broader pattern: Only 3 percent of investigations into attacks on Palestinians resulted in a conviction and 93 percent of investigations were closed without charges, according to the Israeli rights organization Yesh Din.
Hundreds of attacks are carried out each year by Israelis living in illegal settlements against Palestinians and their property in the occupied West Bank.
So far in 2023, at least four Palestinians have been killed by Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank.
The settler attacks came in the hours after two Israeli settlers were killed in a shooting by a Palestinian man in Huwara, near Nablus, on Sunday afternoon.
The men were two brothers who lived in the Har Bracha illegal settlement south of Nablus.
On Monday afternoon, dozens of armed Israeli settlers gathered in Huwara under the protection of the Israeli army, raising fears of another attack.
Despite the attacks, Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir responded to the violence by holding a press conference Monday morning at the illegal outpost of Evytar, where he called for the outpost to be legalized.
“The political response to (terror) attacks is to bring about this settlement,” said Ben-Gvir.
Individual attacks by settlers continued until Monday evening with incidents including arson and stone throwing around Ramallah and Nablus.
At least three Palestinians were injured, including a mother accompanying her 12-year-old daughter in an ambulance.
Separately on Monday evening, another suspected Palestinian shooting took place, killing an Israeli American near Jericho.
The Israeli army has said it has launched a massive manhunt for the perpetrators of the two attacks.
Hundreds of soldiers have been deployed to the occupied West Bank and checkpoints have been set up along the highway to Nablus and Jenin with strict security checks and restrictions on cars with Palestinian license plates, which remained in place on Tuesday.
Israeli forces also arrested eight Palestinians overnight, mostly from the Al-Arroub refugee camp north of Hebron and Ya’bad, south of Jenin in the occupied West Bank.
Observers have suggested that Israeli authorities have focused disproportionately on arresting Palestinian perpetrators of shooting attacks, rather than investigating the settlers behind the attacks on Palestinian villages.
“The army continues to talk about the ‘hunt for the terrorist’, but not the hunt for the one who killed the Palestinian medic yesterday, or the one who set fire to families’ homes,” said Israeli journalist Haggai Matar. said on Twitter. “That is why we should especially shout at Jewish terrorists.”
‘Political and legal coverage’
Matters on the ground have been tense for more than a year, but since the swearing-in of the new far-right Israeli government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu late last year, Israeli officials have taken steps that have further escalated tensions.
Since the new government took office, Israeli forces have carried out three large-scale raids on Palestinian cities, killing dozens of Palestinians.
On February 22, Israeli forces killed 11 Palestinians and wounded more than 100, the majority with live ammunition, during an attack on Nablus.
It was the largest Palestinian death toll in a single Israeli military operation since 2005.
Less than a month earlier, the Israeli army killed 10 Palestinians during an attack on the Jenin refugee camp, including two children and a 61-year-old woman.
During the Nablus settler disaster, several Israeli ministers in the Knesset and settlement officials made remarks and gestures in support of the attacks.
Zvika Fogel, a member of Netanyahu’s governing coalition and Ben-Gvir’s Jewish Power Party, said: “A terrorist came from Huwara – and Huwara was closed and burned. This is what I want to see. Only then can we achieve deterrence.”
“After a killing like (Sunday) villages should be on fire if the IDF does not act,” she added.
Meanwhile, Davidi Ben Zion, deputy chief of the Samaria Regional Council that regulates illegal settlements in the northern occupied West Bank, said in a now-deleted tweet that the “Village of Huwara should be cleared.”
The tweet appealed to Secretary Bezalel Smotrich, the country’s finance minister and a key figure in Netanyahu’s government.
Daniella Weiss, a leader of the settlement movement and former mayor of the illegal Kedumim settlement near Nablus, also said: “Why should we stop? We protect the lives of Jews,” in an interview on Kan public radio in Israel.
The settlers “have a lot of guns,” she said. “Anyone who thinks we should use the military to deal with these attackers and not by fortifying the settlements is mistaken.”