The Israeli military and authorities in the occupied West Bank are struggling to restrain Jewish settlers who are violently attacking Israeli forces, as over 100 settler crimes were recorded in the past 10 days alone.
According to the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, a sharp rise in crimes and violence committed by Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank has not only targeted Palestinians and properties such as mosques, cars, shops and olive trees, but has also turned on the occupation’s own military.
With most incidents taking place in the northern West Bank around the area of Hawara, Israeli Chief of Staff, Aviv Kochavi, neglected to condemn the attacks on Palestinians, but quickly issued a condemnation of the settlers’ attack on an army unit this week.
In a statement released by the Israeli military, Kochavi called the attack a “most severe incident, embodying disgraceful criminal behaviour,” stating that it is “unacceptable that IDF fighters tenaciously and devotedly defending the country would be attacked violently by settlers.”
The attack occurred after Israeli soldiers were dispatched to the scene of a group of settlers throwing rocks at passing Palestinian vehicles, in which the soldiers were “violently attacked, including by pepper spray, by a number of settlers”, according to the military. The commander of the unit and another soldier were injured, as a result.
תיעוד של התקפת המתנחלים בחווארה היום (צילום: אורן זיו) pic.twitter.com/BzeSvVVs2z
— שיחה מקומית (@mekomit) October 13, 2022
Israeli Prime Minister, Yair Lapid, also condemned the incident, describing the settlers as “dangerous criminals” who “must be punished without hesitation. They are endangering the lives of our soldiers and are harming the State of Israel.”
The attack was not the first to be conducted by settlers against the occupation forces, but is the latest to be publicised and condemned after another that took place last October, when an army officer was tear-gassed near the illegal settler outpost, Adei Ad.
According to Israeli security establishment sources cited by Haaretz, the military is afraid of directly cracking down on the settlers and cautious of issuing statements which could be interpreted as political, amid a sensitive election campaign. Settlers and their leaders also accuse the military of favouring the country’s political left and side-lining right-wing groups and tendencies prevalent amongst the settlers.
One source told the paper that the violent settlers are not limited to a few known individuals, but are increasingly being joined by new faces. “Older adults, women with children are also arriving and simply starting to go wild,” he said. According to officials in the Israeli military’s Central Command, the subversion of the army in the occupied territories is becoming so turbulent that settlement leaders are waging a shadow campaign to create the perception that the military has lost control.