On Sunday, February 26, Aqaba, a southern Jordanian city, hosted a meeting between members of the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority which had given good signs of reducing the violence that plagues the region. Both parties had expressed their will to reduce the violence and had agreed to a new conclave in the Egyptian city of Sharm el Sheikh for the next few weeks. However, simultaneously, a new sample of the cycle of violence rose to the fore in the West Bank. A Palestinian gunman killed two Israeli brothers, Yagel and Hallel Yaniv in Huwara, which had been the scene of a deadly Israeli raid the previous Wednesday.
Hours after the armed attack, on Sunday night, the Israeli settlers mobilized, many shouting “revenge”, with sticks, knives and even firearms towards Huwara and other Palestinian villages. In one of them, Zatara, settlers killed Sameh Aqtash, a 37-year-old Palestinian, who was shot in the abdomen. The mobs also injured 390 people, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent, and completely destroyed 35 houses, damaged another 40 and burned 100 vehicles.
The next morning showed deserted streets in Huwara and other Palestinian villages, with residents fearing further attacks, as well as ash on the ground and the remains of burned-out structures and vehicles. Abdel Moneim Aqtash, brother of the murdered Palestinian, accused the Israeli Army of being the one who shot the victim, a version denied by the military entity.
Later, another 27-year-old Israeli young man was killed in a new attack in the occupied West Bank, this time in the Jericho area. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked that “justice not be taken into one’s own hands” without an explicit condemnation. However, some lawmakers within his far-right ruling coalition backed the settlers. Zvika Fogel of the Jewish Power party even noted that she wants to see “Huwara closed and burned.”
The international community called for calm before the situation is irreversible. Germany considered it “urgent to respect the agreements to de-escalate the situation”, while France warned that there is a risk that the violence could “get out of control”. The Arab League blamed the government of Benjamin Netanyahu for the violence and denounced the “systematic, serious and terrible crimes with the protection, support and participation of the Israeli occupation army” of the settlers.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog “strongly condemned” the attack by Israeli settlers, describing it as a “cruel” act of “criminal violence against innocent civilians.” UN special envoy for the Middle East peace process, Tor Wennesland, made clear his “deep concern” over the events and sent his condolences to the relatives of the three deceased. He urged that “violence, provocations and incitement must cease immediately and be unequivocally condemned by all.”
The recent events in the West Bank have highlighted the urgent need to reduce the violence in the region. Both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority have expressed their will to reduce the violence, but the international community must ensure that the agreements are respected and that those responsible for the violence are held accountable. The cycle of violence must be broken before it is too late.