Four Israelis killed in settlement shooting attack

Israeli forces at the scene of a shooting in Eli settlement in the central West Bank on 20 June.

Ilia Yefimovich DPA

Israeli settlers attacked Palestinians and their property in Huwwara, a village near the northern West Bank city of Nablus, and several other communities on Tuesday after a deadly shooting attack in a settlement earlier in the day.

Israeli media, citing defense officials, reported that settlers attacked soldiers brought to the area as they set fire to cars in the Palestinian village.

Huwwara was the site of a massive rampage earlier this year, during which settlers assaulted Palestinians, vandalized their homes and set vehicles on fire under the guard of the Israeli military. One Palestinian man was killed.

The violence in Huwwara late February was meted out as revenge after a Palestinian shot and killed two brothers who lived at a nearby settlement. Israel’s ultra-far-right finance minister Bezalel Smotrich said at the time that “Huwwara needs to be wiped out.”

The kind of genocidal incitement that led to the Huwwara pogrom is all but inevitable after two Palestinian gunmen killed four Israelis at a settlement on Tuesday. The shooting attack followed a deadly raid that left six Palestinians dead in the northern West Bank city of Jenin the previous day.

The shooting took place at a gas station in Eli, a settlement in the central West Bank south of Nablus. All settlements in occupied territory are illegal under international law.

At least one of the Israelis killed was 17 years old; the others were reportedly between the ages of 18 and 63. Four others were reported injured, one of them seriously.

Both of the Palestinians alleged to have carried out the attack were killed. They were identified as Muhanad Shehadeh, 26, and Khaled Sabah, 24, both from the West Bank village of Urif near Nablus.

The pair had previously been imprisoned together “after the two threw an explosive device in an open area near the Palestinian village of Yabad,” the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz reported.

Shehadeh was killed at the scene by armed Israeli civilians.

Video recorded from a passing vehicle shows Shehadeh being shot while he lays prone on the ground:

One of the men who shot Shehadeh, reportedly a member of the Eli settlement security patrol, said that he continued to fire at the Palestinian man even after he had fallen to the ground.

“I kept firing at him until he fell. He was still moving,” Morel Nikel told media from a hospital where he was being treated for gunshot wounds.

“Those beasts apparently have more than one soul. I fired one more [bullet] and he stopped moving,” he added.

Calling for preemptive strikes, he said that “you don’t need to wait until someone picks up a gun and kills people, and then kill him.” He added that “they want to kill us … We have to kill them before they do.”

Extrajudicial executions

Sabah was able to escape in a vehicle stolen at the gas station and then in a taxi, evading Israel’s grasp for two hours before he was killed by occupation forces near Tubas, some 45 miles away from Eli. Another Palestinian reportedly sustained moderate injuries when Sabah was shot and killed.

The Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence agency, said that “during the arrest attempt, the suspect tried to escape from the vehicle, and was shot and neutralized by the forces.”

However, security camera footage from a nearby gas station contradicts the Shin Bet’s claim that troops attempted to arrest Sabah. The video shows that Israeli forces surrounded the vehicle in which Sabah was traveling, killing him at point blank range:

Another video recorded by Palestinian bystanders appears to show Israeli soldiers pulling Sabah’s lifeless body from the taxi, causing it to fall on the ground:
WAFA, the official Palestinian news agency, said that local sources reported that special forces intercepted the vehicle in which Sabah was traveling “and fired directly at him, killing him on the spot.”

Both Sabah and Shehadeh may have been extrajudicially executed.

In past instances of occupation forces killing alleged Palestinian assailants, Israel’s top leaders have indicated that their aim is to execute wanted persons, rather than arrest them.

“Our message to those who harm us and those trying to harm us is that it may take a day, a week or a month, but be sure that we’ll settle the score with you,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after a deadly raid in the northern West Bank last month.

“It doesn’t matter where you try to hide, we’ll find you. Whoever harms us forfeits his life.”

After the shooting attack on Tuesday, Netanyahu said that “we have proven in recent months that we take revenge on all murderers without any exception.”

Itamar Ben-Gvir – Israel’s ultra-far-right national security minister and kingmaker in Netanyahu’s fractious ruling coalition – visited the scene of the attack in Eli. He demanded that the prime minister and defense minister Yoav Gallant launch a major military operation “and resume the policy of targeted assassinations in the West Bank.”

Netanyahu was already under increasing pressure to launch a major military operation following a routine arrest raid that went awry in Jenin on Monday, with resistance fighters immobilizing army vehicles with powerful improvised explosive devices. Israel deployed an attack helicopter in the West Bank for the first time in 20 years to evacuate soldiers injured during the raid.

But long before the raid in Jenin on Monday, members of Netanyahu’s far-right coalition, many of them settlers, had been demanding an even more hardline response to Palestinian resistance. Netanyahu capitulated to such calls when Israel assassinated several high-ranking Islamic Jihad figures in Gaza last month, leading to several days of intense cross-border fire and dozens of fatalities.

“Natural response” to Jenin raid

Both Islamic Jihad and Hamas welcomed Tuesday’s shooting attack and characterized it as a natural response to the deadly raid in Jenin.

Five Palestinians were killed in the raid, during which Israeli forces encountered fierce resistance.

A sixth Palestinian, 48-year-old Amjad al-Jais, died early Tuesday from injuries sustained during the raid.

Al-Jais was shot by an Israeli sniper while attempting to pick up his children from school, his brother told media. One of his sons, 16-year-old Wasim, died after he was shot and run over by Israeli soldiers during a raid in Jenin on 26 January.

Twelve Palestinians were killed during that raid or succumbed to their injuries days later.

Also on Tuesday, Naser Sinan, 55, died from injuries sustained after he was shot in the head by soldiers during a raid in Jenin on 22 May. Palestinian outlets reported that Sinan was a father of six children.

Nearly 170 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli police, soldiers and settlers so far this year, or died as a result of injuries sustained previously, according to The Electronic Intifada’s tracking.

Around 30 people were killed in Israel and the West Bank as a result of Palestinian attacks during the same period, or died from injuries sustained previously.


Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.