Palestinian Authority reports 310 attacks by Israeli settlers in West Bank

As an outbreak of violence continues since early this week in the West Bank, Israeli settlers set fire to a Palestinian school in the village Urif in Nablus governorate and attempted to torch homes and a mosque Thursday. The violence is surging just as senior US official Barbara Leaf is visiting Israel and Palestinian territories to manage the situation.

A Palestinian Authority official said in a press statement on Wednesday that Israeli settlers in the West Bank conducted 310 attacks against Palestinians and their properties since Tuesday. Ghassan Daghlas, the Palestinian Authority’s head of settlement monitoring for the northern West Bank, added that the number is expected to increase as more attacks are reported. 

In a press statement, the Palestinian Ministry of Education condemned the Urif incident as a “barbaric attack” against an education institution and “a crime that reveals systematic occupation terrorism and reflects the ugliness of the settlers and their continuous crimes against defenseless civilians.” According to local residents, the settlers came from the Yitzhar settlement. 

Thursday’s attack came only hours after violent clashes erupted between Israeli forces and settlers and residents of Urif on Wednesday night. The Israeli army said its forces entered the village to make arrests after two Palestinians from Urif killed four Israelis and injured four others in a shooting attack Tuesday afternoon near the West Bank settlement of Eli.

The killing of the Israeli citizens came a day after seven Palestinians including an Islamic Jihad fighter and two teenagers were killed in clashes in Jenin. The Israeli army conducted a raid in search of wanted Palestinians. The operation was met with fierce resistance, with militants inside Jenin targeting Israeli military vehicles with explosive devices. Israeli helicopters also conducted rare airstrikes as soldiers wounded during the gunfight were evacuated, according to the army. 

In apparent revenge for the killing of the four Israelis, settlers went on a rampage across West Bank villages on Tuesday, vandalizing and setting fire to houses and vehicles. 

On Wednesday, hundreds of armed Israeli settlers attacked the village of Turmusaya, north of Ramallah, setting dozens of cars and houses ablaze. Residents say some even shot at villagers as Israeli troops stormed the village. Palestinian Omar Qattin, 27, was killed by army fire. Qattin was unarmed, according to residents.

In a video circulating on social media, a resident of Turmusaya whose house was destroyed angrily called on the Palestinian government to either protect or arm them. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, who was in the village talking to residents in the aftermath of the attack, said, “We know that people are angry and irritated, and they have the right to be so and to demand protection.”

Later that day, three Palestinians were killed in a rare Israeli drone strike in the Jenin refugee camp. The Israeli army said the strike targeted a vehicle carrying suspected members of a terrorist cell. The strike, believed to be the first since 2006, marked a new escalation in the recent round of violence. 

Also on Thursday, the Israeli army demolished the home of a Palestinian in Nablus accused of carrying out a shooting attack in the West Bank last year. Kamal Jouri was arrested in February after a drive-by shooting that killed an Israeli soldier in October.

US Assistant Secretary of State Barbara Leaf for Near Eastern Affairs Leaf was scheduled to visit the West Bank and Jerusalem this week as Washington is increasingly concerned about the volatility of the situation. 

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