An Israeli minister yesterday belittled the stoning to death of a Palestinian mother by illegal Israeli settlers, calling it nothing more than a "scrap of an incident".
Israel's Tourism Minister Yariv Levin made the comments during an interview with Israel's Army Radio yesterday, adding that left-wing organisations such as Peace Now were jumping on the incident to "condemn" illegal Israeli settlers. According to the Times of Israel, Levin told the radio:
It is impossible to not be aggravated by the hypocrisy of that kind of people [left-wing organisations], that finds sufficient the scrap of an incident that hasn't even been checked, and they already know that the Jewish side is guilty.
Levin was commenting on an attack which took place on Friday night and left 47-year-old Aisha Muhammad Talal Al-Rabi dead. The attack took place at Tapuah Junction (Za'atara), south of Nablus in the occupied West Bank, as Aisha and her husband Yaqoub were driving past a nearby illegal settlement. Their car was hit by stones believed to have been thrown by the settlers, causing Yaqoub to lose control of the car.
According to Middle East Eye (MEE), the attackers "encroached on the right shoulder of the road, ambushed Aisha's car [then hurled] large stones at the front windshield and passenger side window, where she was sitting". MEE explains that "in the midst of the assault […] Aisha was struck with a large rock on the right side of her head, causing her to lose consciousness". A MEE video showed graphic images of the blood-soaked car seat and shattered windscreen in the wake of the attack.
Yaqoub's cousin Issam told MEE: "Yaqoub was so disoriented, he could barely get a sense of what was going on, and he looked over and saw his wife unconscious and bleeding heavily from her head. He didn't know what to do so he rushed to the Rafidiya Hospital in Nablus City, a 20-minute drive away." Despite Yaqoub's attempt to save his wife, Aisha was pronounced dead on arrival, Ynet reported. She leaves behind seven children, one of whom was due to be engaged in the coming weeks.
Israel's security agency Shin Bet on Saturday launched an investigation into the attack, a fact which the Times of Israel sees as "suggesting that it was indeed suspected of being an act of terror carried out by area settlers." Numerous other Israeli bodies have been cited as aiding the investigation, including "the division within the Judea and Samaria [West Bank] District Police that handles far-right activity" and Jerusalem Magistrate's Court, which issued a gag order on the investigation on Saturday. The involvement of so many organisations in the probe seems to add weight to the view that Israel believes its citizens were directly involved.
It is thought that the attack on the Al-Rabi family's car could be a revenge attack for the shooting of two Israelis last week at the Barkan industrial park, itself situated near Tapuah Junction where Al-Rabi was murdered. Revenge attacks by settlers – sometimes dubbed "price tag" attacks – are commonplace and the perpetrators rarely face prosecution. According to human rights organisation Yesh Din, only three per cent of investigations into ideologically-motivated crimes committed by Israeli settlers against Palestinians have resulted in a conviction. In addition, only eight per cent of investigations monitored by Yesh Din between 2005 and 2017 have led to indictments.
Friday's attack has received international condemnation, with the UN's Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov yesterday issuing an official statement saying: "I urge all to condemn violence and stand up to terrorism […] Such attacks only seek to drag everyone into a new cycle of violence that would further undermine the prospects of peace between Palestinians and Israelis," Haaretz reported.
The European Union also issued a statement on the attack, with the spokesperson for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini saying: "The cycle of violence leads only to more violence and deprives entire generations from the legitimate aspiration to live in peace and free to build their own future. Only a political solution can put an end to the violence."
Israel has occupied the West Bank since the Six Day War of 1967 and has since pursued a policy of illegal settlement across the territory. According to B'Tselem, as of the end of 2015 there were 127 government-sanctioned Israeli settlements in the West Bank (not including East Jerusalem and central Hebron), in addition to a further 100 outposts. Though Israel differentiates between settlements and outposts, both are illegal under international law, which forbids the occupying power from transferring its civilians to the territory it occupies.