Two Israelis have been arrested for questioning and five others detained following the reported killing of a Palestinian man in the West Bank, Israel Police said in a statement Saturday.
It is rare for Israeli settlers to be arrested for attacks on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. They are almost never prosecuted, even if arrested.
A Palestinian man was shot and killed by Israeli settlers in the village of Burqa, near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said late Friday.
It is the first accusation from the Ministry that settlers have killed a Palestinian villager since February, and the second this year, although both Palestinian officials and international observers regularly document violence by settlers against Palestinians.
The ministry said Qusai Jamal Maatan, 19, was fatally shot in the neck by Israeli settlers during an attack on his village. Two others were injured, according to the ministry.
Maatan was buried Saturday morning.
The IDF said in a statement that they arrived after reports of “violent clashes between Israeli civilians and Palestinians,” and that “it was reported that during the clashes, Israeli civilians shot toward the Palestinians and as a result, there was a Palestinian casualty.”
The IDF also said Israeli civilians were reportedly injured by rocks hurled at them.
There was no immediate comment from the Shomron (Samaria) Council, which represents settlers in the northern West Bank and would not normally issue a statement on Shabbat.
A legal aid group that defends settlers said Saturday that the settler who shot the Palestinian was acting in self-defense after Palestinian villagers began harassing an Israeli shepherd.
Honenu, the legal group, said the incident began when Palestinians from Burqa threatened the shepherd from Oz Zion – a settler outpost – which is illegal not only under international law but under Israeli law.
The shepherd called other settlers “to prevent deterioration,” Honenu said, after which dozens of Palestinians attacked them with clubs, fireworks and rocks.
One of the settlers was hit in the head with a rock “at point blank range and was seriously injured,” according to Honenu, and he managed to defend himself with a licensed gun he was carrying.
He is currently in intensive care following an operation at Shaare Zedek hospital in Jerusalem, and under arrest, Honenu said.
The second Israeli settler who was arrested helped transport him to the hospital, Honenu said.
Honenu attorney Nati Rom said: “My client acted according to the law, and as is required of any licensed firearm holder – to protect his life and the lives of other civilians.”
A statement released by the Israeli military said both Israelis and Palestinians threw stones in the West Bank confrontation.
The army has imposed a closed military zone on the area while investigations by Israel Police and the Shin Bet security agency (ISA) are ongoing.
The US State Department qualified the incident as a “terror attack”.
In a statement released on Twitter, now known as X, it said: “We strongly condemn yesterday’s terror attack by Israeli extremist settlers that killed a 19-year old Palestinian.”
“The US extends our deepest sympathies to his family and loved ones. We note Israeli officials have made several arrests and we urge full accountability and justice.”
The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates strongly condemned attacks by what they referred to as “organized and armed terrorist settler militias” against unarmed Palestinian citizens in Burqa.
The ministry expressed concern over the lack of real punishment for attacks by settlers on Palestinian villagers, saying the incidents have emboldened settlers to commit further crimes. The ministry accused Israeli government ministers and their followers of incitement.
The coalition government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu includes two parties primarily supported by settlers, Israelis who live in the West Bank in order to cement the country’s hold on the Palestinian territory. Settlements are considered illegal under international law. Israeli asserts the West Bank is “disputed,” not “occupied,” and denies that the settlements are illegal.
The United Nations warned last month of a dramatic rise in West Bank settler attacks on Palestinian people and property, with nearly 600 such incidents registered during the first half of the year.
The UN humanitarian agency OCHA said it had recorded 591 settler-related incidents in the territory in the first six months of 2023, resulting in Palestinian casualties, property damage, or both.