Israeli security chiefs have declared the recent attacks by settlers on Palestinian villages in the occupied West Bank as acts of “nationalist terrorism.” They vowed to take stronger measures to counter such violence, leading to backlash from far-right cabinet ministers.
Over the past week, there has been an upsurge in violence in the West Bank, including rampages by Israeli settlers targeting Palestinian towns and villages.
These incidents have drawn international condemnation, including concern from the White House.
On Saturday, settlers set fire to at least two homes in the Palestinian village of Umm Safa near Ramallah.
The Israeli military reported the arrest of at least one Israeli suspect, and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant condemned the attack.
In a joint statement, Israel’s military, police, and domestic security service chiefs classified the actions of the settlers as “nationalist terrorism.” They pledged to take action against such acts, with the military increasing its presence in the area to prevent further violence.
The Shin Bet domestic security service also announced plans to enhance arrests, including the use of “administrative detention,” a practice often criticized by human rights groups.
Two members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s nationalist-religious government strongly criticized the statement. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich argued that equating settler actions with Arab terrorism is both “immoral and dangerous.”
He called for increased efforts to combat Palestinian attacks and for settlers to avoid taking the law into their own hands. National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, known for past convictions related to terrorism and incitement against Arabs, echoed these sentiments.
Concerns about settler attacks were also expressed by White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan during a phone call with his Israeli counterpart.
This conversation occurred just hours after Ben-Gvir called on settlers to expand their presence throughout the West Bank.
These incidents of violence by settlers followed intense gun battles in Jenin, resulting in the deaths of seven Palestinians, as well as a Palestinian shooting attack that claimed the lives of four Israelis.
Additionally, there was a rare Israeli airstrike in the area targeting militants.
Earlier on Saturday, a Palestinian militant opened fire at an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank, injuring a security guard. The gunman was subsequently shot dead by Israeli forces at the scene.
The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, an armed group associated with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Peace talks brokered by the U.S. between Palestinians and Israel, with the aim of establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, collapsed in 2014 and show no signs of revival.
Most countries consider the settlements built by Israel on land seized during the 1967 war to be illegal, a view that Israel disputes.