Israel arrests suspects in settler rampage described by general as 'pogrom'

Israel arrests suspects in settler rampage described by general as 'pogrom'
Five Israeli settlers suspected of being behind the rampage on a Palestinian town this week have been arrested.
3 min read
Israeli settlers attacked homes, torched cars and killed one Palestinian [Getty]

Police have arrested five suspects over a settler rampage in the occupied West Bank earlier this week that an Israeli general described as a "pogrom".

Shops in the Palestinian village Huwara remained closed on Israeli occupation orders on Wednesday amid a heavy Israeli military presence, residents said. A Palestinian gunman killed two Israeli settler brothers there on Sunday, prompting attacks by Israeli settlers on houses and cars during which one Palestinian was killed.

Israeli police said on Wednesday they expected to make more arrests during their ongoing investigation into the settler violence in and around Huwara.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, speaking during a visit to the village on Wednesday, said the arrests were not enough.

"We see an organised crime perpetrated by the Israeli government and carried out by the settlers," he said.

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Major General Yehuda Fuchs, who commands the Israeli military in the area, said his forces had prepared for attempted settler retribution but had been surprised by the intensity of the violence, which he said was perpetrated by dozens of people.

"The incident in Huwara was a pogrom carried out by outlaws," he told N12 News late on Tuesday.

A 'pogrom' is a mob attack, approved or condoned by the authorities, against a religious, racial, or national minority. The term is usually applied to attacks on Jews in the Russian Empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Fuchs' comments came amid increased tensions within the extreme-right government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which includes hard-line settlers who have incited violence against Palestinians.

One of them, far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, has called on people "not to take the law into their own hands". His Jewish Power party has accused Netanyahu of being "weak on terrorism".

"This is not 'taking the law into your own hands,' because lawful people don't sow terror among the (civilian) population," said Fuchs. "Collective punishment doesn't help combating terrorism, on the contrary it might even cause terrorism."

With the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and Jewish Passover festival weeks away, foreign mediators have sought to tamp down tensions in the wake of deadly Israeli raids which have killed over 60 Palestinians since the beginning of 2023 and retaliatory attacks by Palestinians.

"I'm worried," said U.S. Ambassador Tom Nides at Tel Aviv University's conference of the Institute for National Security Studies late on Tuesday.

"This is going to be a very complicated period of time we're about to walk into, we've got to keep things as calm as possible to keep things from getting out of control, which could easily happen," said Nides.

(Reuters and The New Arab Staff)