RAMALLAH: Israel's military on Wednesday killed three members of a “terrorist cell” in a rare West Bank drone strike, the army said, as violence there escalated with at least 13 Palestinians and four Israelis dead this week.
Hundreds of Israeli settlers stormed the town in the occupied West Bank, setting fire to dozens of cars and homes to avenge the deaths of four Israelis killed by two Palestinian gunmen the previous day.
Lafi Adeeb, the town’s mayor, said that 12 Palestinians were wounded in the attack. He added that 30 homes and more than 60 vehicles were damaged and crops set on fire by rampaging settler gangs.
According to eyewitnesses, several settlers opened fire on Palestinians in the presence of the Israeli army, which also joined the attack and did nothing to stop the violence.
The Palestinian Red Crescent Society said several settlers stopped ambulances from reaching the town to treat the injured.
Palestinian medical officials said one man — identified as 27-year-old Omar Qatin — was killed by army fire and two other people were wounded.
Residents said that Qatin, the father of two young children, worked as an electrician for the local municipality.
Khamis Jbara, a neighbor, said: “He was just standing there, innocent. He is such a kind-hearted kid. He had no stones; he was totally unarmed and was at least half a mile away from the military.”
Jbara described the victim as a “peaceful man,” adding: “He works from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.”
Sources said that settlers have carried out 310 attacks against Palestinians and Palestinian property since Tuesday evening.
On Feb. 26, dozens of settlers attacked the towns of Hawara, Burin and Asira Al-Qibliya, south of Nablus, and burned dozens of vehicles.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said the “barbaric attacks carried out by settlers on peaceful citizens, and the destruction of their homes and properties, reflect the burning and killing mentality of Israel.”
He added that opening the way for settlers to riot under the protection of the Israeli army “is a recipe for destruction, for which everyone will pay.”
Palestinian civil defense crews and vehicles worked to put out fires caused by settler attacks in the town.
Earlier on Tuesday night, settlers attacked the village of Al-Laban Al-Sharqiya, set fire to crops, attacked homes and a gas station, and torched private vehicles.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement called on its cadres and the Palestinian public to rally and confront the systematic settler attacks.
“Attempts to terrorize our people by unleashing armed settler militias will be met with resistance and confrontation,” it said in a statement.
Hussein Al-Sheikh from the Palestine Liberation Organization called on Palestinians to form popular committees to protect civilian properties and confront settler terrorism.
He also urged the US administration and the international community to force the Israeli government and army to stop settler attacks.
Mustafa Al-Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative Movement, told Arab News that the settlers’ terrorism “is a repetition of the criminality and terrorism of Zionist gangs during the Nakba in 1948.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a plan to build 1,000 new settlement units in the Eli settlement following the killing of four settlers. Also on Wednesday, settlers began building new homes in the Salayet settlement in the northern Jordan Valley.
Egypt called for an immediate halt to attacks by Israeli settlers to stop the security situation from spiraling out of control.