April 13, 2024

Death of Israeli teenager in West Bank fuels attacks on Palestinians

Death of Israeli teenager in West Bank fuels attacks on Palestinians

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday condemned the “heinous murder” of an Israeli teenager in the occupied West Bank as attacks on Palestinian villages intensified following news of his death.

After Benjamin Achimeir, 14, was reported missing near Ramallah on Friday, hundreds of Jewish settlers backed by Israeli forces raided nearby Palestinian villages, torching cars and homes, and left at least one villager dead and dozens wounded.

The attacks escalated in several villages on Saturday after Achimeir’s body was found near the Malachi Hashalom outpost. AFP correspondents saw smoke rising from burnt houses and fields.

The mayor of nearby Al-Mughayyir village, Amin Abu Alyah, told AFP: “Dozens of settlers are now attacking the village and burning everything they find in front of them. They burned a house, a bulldozer and a number of vehicles.”

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa condemned the attacks and urged the authorities to help the people of Al-Mughayyir.

Netanyahu said Israeli forces were “in an intensive pursuit after the heinous murderers and all those who collaborated with them”.

“The heinous murder of the boy Binyamin Achimair is a serious crime,” he said.

Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant warned that “revenge” attacks would make it difficult for security forces to find the perpetrators. “The law must not be taken into one’s own hands,” he wrote on social media.

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid said, “Violent riots of the settlers are a dangerous violation of the law and interfere with the security forces.”

Hundreds of thousands of Israelis live in West Bank settlements considered illegal under international law.

With tensions already high in the face of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, Israeli security forces and hundreds of volunteers formed a huge search party to look for Achimeir on Friday.

Jewish settlers who were part of the manhunt raided Al-Mughayyir, firing shots and torching homes and cars in the village while residents responded by throwing stones, AFP journalists reported.

At least one person was killed and 25 wounded, the Palestinian health ministry said on Friday.

Overnight, the official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that five Palestinians were wounded in another settler attack in Abu Falah village near Ramallah.

On Saturday Suleiman Dawabsha, mayor of Duma near Nablus, told AFP the West Bank had been “in a real state of war since yesterday”.

He said Israeli troops and settlers had set fire to more than 15 houses and 10 farms in his village.

The West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967, has seen a surge in violence since early last year, which has intensified since the Israel-Hamas war erupted on October 7.

At least 462 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops or settlers in the West Bank, according to Palestinian official figures.

Francesca Albanese, the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights situation in the Palestinian territories, urged the UN to “authorise the deployment of a protective presence in the occupied Palestinian territory, with the explicit mandate to prevent and (repel) attacks against civilians”.

“The Israeli army has abundantly proven unwilling or unable to ensure that task,” she wrote on X.