West Bank village counts losses after settler attack, and fears more

By Thomson Reuters Apr 21, 2024 | 2:06 AM

By Ali Sawafta

AL-MUGHAYYER, West Bank (Reuters) – The Israeli settlers who rampaged through the West Bank village of al-Mughayyer on April 12 came in greater numbers and carried more weapons than during any of the previous raids on the Palestinian community, residents said.

Days later, torched homes and cars still bear testament to the attack, which residents said lasted several hours and that they said Israeli soldiers did nothing to stop.

With few means to defend themselves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, they fear more such assaults on the village.

“We have stones and they have weapons, and the army supports the settlers,” said Abdullatif Abu Alia, whose house came under attack. His roof was spattered with the blood of Palestinians wounded as they tried to repel the attackers with rocks. One of them, his relative Jihad Abu Alia, was shot and killed, he said.

“Of course, the aim is to force displacement,” he added.

Al-Mughayyer was one of several Palestinian villages raided by settlers over several days beginning April 12, an escalation that began after a 14-year-old Israeli went missing. His body was discovered not far from al-Mughayyer the following day.

Israel said he was killed in a terrorist attack.

Violence in the West Bank, seized by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, was already surging before the Gaza war began in October – fuelling further bloodshed in the territory.

Settler violence is a source of growing concern among Israel’s Western allies. A number of countries, including the United States, have imposed sanctions on violent settlers and urged Israel to do more to stop the violence.

Washington imposed sanctions on Friday on an ally of Israel’s far-right national security minister and two entities that raised money for Israeli men accused of settler violence.

The Israeli military said confrontations had spread in the area as a result of the teenager’s killing, and included “exchanges of gunfire, mutual stone throwing and property arson in which Israeli and Palestinian civilians were injured”.

Asked about residents’ accusations that soldiers had done nothing to stop the al-Mughayyer attack, the military said the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and security forces operated with the aim of protecting “the property and lives of all citizens and dispersing the confrontations”.


Ameen Abu Alia, the head of al-Mughayyer’s municipal council, said 45 Palestinians suffered gunshot wounds in the attack, which began after hundreds of settlers had congregated on a road near the village.

Israeli troops arrived shortly before it started, setting up road blocks and a cordon which left houses on the village outskirts cut off from its centre, meaning villagers could not to go to aid those who were under attack, he said.

The soldiers also prevented ambulances from reaching the area to treat wounded people, he said.

The Israeli military said ambulances “were delayed for a security check and then they were given the authorization to continue”.

Abu Alia, the municipal council head, accused the Israeli army of providing security for the settler raid, which the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said had been “accompanied by Israeli forces”.

Complaints about soldiers’ behaviour that was not in accordance with orders will be examined, the Israeli military said.

Israel has settled the West Bank extensively since 1967, viewing it as the biblical Judea and Samaria and critical to Israel’s security. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s promotion of settlement growth has drawn U.S. criticism.

The settlements have eaten up West Bank land where Palestinians have long aimed to establish an independent state that would also include the Gaza Strip and have East Jerusalem as its capital.


His home torched in the attack, Shehadah Abu Rasheed has pitched a tent to provide temporary shelter. Inside, the walls of the house were charred black. Abu Rasheed said his wife was hit by a settler and one of his four children lightly wounded by gunfire.

The settlers also torched a fire truck sent to al-Mughayyer by the Palestinian civil defence service during the attack, the civil defence said. Its charred remains were being loaded onto a truck when Reuters journalists visited on Wednesday.

OCHA reported that the settlers fully burnt 21 houses in al-Mughayyer, displacing 86 Palestinians, and that 32 vehicles were damaged, and some 220 sheep were killed or stolen.

It was unconfirmed if the Palestinian man who died during the raid was killed by Israeli forces or settlers, it said.

Four of seven Palestinians killed in the West Bank between April 12 and 15 died in incidents involving Israeli settlers in a series of attacks on Palestinian communities during and after the search for the 14-year-old Israeli, OCHA reported. Another Palestinian man was killed in a settler raid on April 20, the Palestinian health ministry said.

The United States, Britain and the European Union have all imposed sanctions on violent settlers in recent months.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said at an April 15 briefing that Washington condemned last weekend’s violence against Palestinians just as strongly as it condemned the murder of the 14-year-old Israeli. The United States has said it is “incredibly concerned” that Israeli security forces were not doing enough to stop settler violence, he said.

Al-Mughayyer is located in a part of the West Bank where Israel has full security control under interim peace accords which Palestinian leaders signed three decades ago in the belief they would eventually lead to an independent state.

The arrangements mean most of the West Bank is off limits to the security forces of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority. Abdullatif Abu Alia, the al-Mughayyer resident, said the most he hoped for from the Palestinian government was help to erect a protective fence around his house and reinforce the windows.

“What else can they do? They can’t even protect themselves,” he said, referring to Israeli raids into Palestinian cities.

(Additional reporting by Henriette Chacar and James Mackenzie in Jerusalem; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Helen Popper)