Thursday, June 13, 2024

Israeli security chiefs describe settler raids on Palestinian villages as “nationalist terrorism”

Israeli security chiefs have designated settler attacks on Palestinian villages in the occupied West Bank as "nationalist terrorism" that merit stepped-up counter measures. The remarks drew anger from far-right cabinet ministers.

A surge of violence over the past week in the West Bank included rampages by scores of Israeli settlers on Palestinian towns and villages that drew international condemnation and concern from the White House.

In a joint statement, Israel’s military, police and domestic security service chiefs said the settlers’ actions amounted to “nationalist terrorism” which they pledged to fight.

The military will boost its forces in the area to prevent such violence, they added, and the Shin Bet domestic security service will enhance arrests, including “administrative detention” in which suspects can be held without charge.

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant has also condemned the attacks.

That practice is largely used by Israel against Palestinian security suspects and is denounced by rights groups.

The statement drew sharp rebuke by two members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s nationalist-religious government.

“The attempt to equate murderous Arab terrorism with civilian counter actions, as serious as they are, is immoral and dangerous,” stated Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich.

He called on security forces to step up their efforts against Palestinian attacks and on settlers to refrain from “taking the law into their own hands.”

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has past convictions for support for terrorism and incitement against Arabs, echoed Smotrich’s remarks.

On Friday, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan expressed concerns about settler attacks on Palestinian villages in a call with his Israeli counterpart, hours after Ben-Gvir called on settlers to expand their presence across the West Bank.

The settlers’ assaults this week followed intense gun battles in Jenin that left seven Palestinians dead, a Palestinian shooting attack that killed four Israelis and a rare Israeli air strike in the area against Palestinians.

U.S.-brokered peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel aimed at establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, collapsed in 2014 and show no sign of revival.

Most countries deem the settlements Israel built on land it seized in the 1967 war as illegal, a view Israel disputes.

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