How suffering and destruction caused by Israel’s Gaza assault serve the ideologies and goals of extremists

Special How suffering and destruction caused by Israel’s Gaza assault serve the ideologies and goals of extremists
Experts say there is a danger that extremist narratives may seem vindicated if the international community fails to move the dial on the Gaza war or if the conflict escalates further across the region. (AFP)
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Updated 21 February 2024
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How suffering and destruction caused by Israel’s Gaza assault serve the ideologies and goals of extremists

How suffering and destruction caused by Israel’s Gaza assault serve the ideologies and goals of extremists
  • Security chiefs have reported a rise in online extremism, hate crimes and individuals flagged to authorities since Oct. 7
  • Experts say ongoing conflict could be used by extremist groups to recruit followers and encourage lone-wolf attacks

LONDON: Violent extremist groups are exploiting public outcry surrounding the war in Gaza to fan the flames of radicalization, recruit followers, and encourage lone-wolf attacks in the West, counterterrorism officials have warned.

Since the Hamas-led attack of Oct. 7, which sparked Israel’s retaliation in Gaza, security chiefs have warned of a dramatic rise in violent Islamist tendencies, online terrorist propaganda, and the number of individuals flagged to authorities.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said the provocative actions of Israeli forces deployed in the Gaza Strip would inflame feelings in Arab and Islamic countries, especially with the death toll approaching 30,000.




Since the Hamas-led attack of Oct. 7 and the devastating Israeli military retaliation, US and European security chiefs have warned of a dramatic rise in violent Islamist tendencies. (AFP)

He warned that these incidents could serve the ideologies of terrorism and extremism around the world.

Last month, Matt Jukes, head of UK counterterrorism policing, said events in the Middle East had created a “dangerous climate” in which anger at Israel’s actions and alleged Western inaction is feeding grievances that can be exploited by extremist groups.

“That puts us at a point in communities, on the street and online, which would lead us to describe what has happened in the Middle East as a radicalization moment,” Jukes said in a statement on Jan. 19. 

“These are the moments when a mixture of outrage, grievance and a set of enduring factors have the potential to influence those susceptible to being pushed towards terrorism.” 

Similar concerns were raised in the immediate aftermath of the Hamas-led attack by the head of MI5, Ken McCallum, who told the BBC that “lots of would-be-terrorists in the UK draw inspiration through their distorted understanding of what is happening in other countries.”

Likewise, in the US, FBI Director Chris Wray said: “We cannot and do not discount the possibility that Hamas or other foreign terrorist organizations could exploit the conflict to call on their supporters to conduct attacks on our own soil.”

Elizabeth Pearson, a counterterrorism expert and author of the recently published book “Extreme Britain,” believes the Israel-Hamas conflict is acting as “a lightning rod” for radicalization — a phenomenon made worse by preexisting grievances.

“This particular conflict has always been a symbolic vessel for different identities to feel — and also become — marginalized,” Pearson, who heads the master’s program in terrorism and counterterrorism studies at Royal Holloway, University of London, told Arab News.

“I’ve talked to Islamist activists in the UK and they explicitly set out to use this conflict and the plight of Palestinians to gain new members. The narrative of Muslim victimization and powerlessness is key here. Islamist responses are always: ‘The only way to solve this problem is to join our group.’”

Experts suggest there are several ways in which extremist groups may try to spin events in the Middle East to fit a particular worldview. For Alan Mendoza, executive director of the Henry Jackson Society, these follow a familiar format.




Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said the provocative actions of Israeli forces deployed in the Gaza Strip would inflame feelings in Arab and Islamic countries. (AFP)

“The customary way the narrative emerges is along the lines of: ‘The West is corrupt and hypocritical,’” Mendoza told Arab News.

“‘Its allies kill innocent Muslims while it supplies them weapons and provides diplomatic coverage for them to do so. These same Western countries are increasingly oppressing their Muslim populations at home too. Come and join us to liberate our people.’”

The implications of this climate of radicalization in the UK are being expressed in several ways. The most obvious since the onset of the Gaza crisis has been the sudden spike in hate crimes and hate speech on social media.

“We are seeing a massive escalation in Islamophobia and, in particular, antisemitism,” Emily Winterbotham​​​​, director of the terrorism and conflict program at London’s Royal United Services Institute, told Arab News. 

“This is recognized by UK intelligence services. Protests and acts of antisemitism, Islamophobia, vandalism, and social tensions increase the environment of radicalization.”

Statistics from the London Metropolitan Police show there were 218 antisemitic incidents between Oct. 1 and 18 last year — up from 15 during the same period in 2022. Likewise, there were 101 Islamophobic offenses, up from 42. 

“We’ve also seen a 12-fold increase in hateful social media content referred to specialist police officers of the Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit,” said Winterbotham​​​​. “This is primarily antisemitic content and from users not previously on police radar.”

And it is not just Islamist groups that have reportedly seized upon events in the Middle East to push an extremist narrative, recruit followers, and incite violence.

“Far-right groups in the UK are using the conflict to further delegitimize Islam and Muslims, siding with Israel in order to further an anti-Muslim agenda,” said Pearson.




According to Metropolitan Police figures, the amount of terrorist material appearing online surged to 15 times the level it was prior to Oct. 7. (AFP)

“Polarization, Islamophobia and antisemitism in wider society justify hatred and violence … It is the polarization, the inability to empathize with others, and ultimately their dehumanization, which is a key characteristic of radicalization.”

Anas Al-Tikriti, CEO and founder of the Cordoba Foundation, rejects the notion that Islamists or Muslims in general are solely responsible for the apparent rise in extremist content since the conflict began.

“I would suggest that any conflict, particularly the magnitude and obviously the territory that we’re talking about over the course of the past four months, will have created an increase, probably a significant increase, in radicalized tendencies on both sides,” he told Arab News.

“But why just focus on the Muslim side? Why not, for instance, talk about what’s happening on Zionist platforms and accounts?”

He added: “I doubt that there is anyone who is either shocked or surprised by the fact that the conflict in the manner and shape and form and the images that we have been engulfed with over the course of the conflict will have led to such tendencies. But I reject, I absolutely and utterly reject … that these are exclusive to Muslim circles.”

According to Metropolitan Police figures, the amount of terrorist material appearing online surged to 15 times the level it was prior to Oct. 7, before settling at a level seven times greater.

“That is extraordinary and demonstrates the volume and intensity of online rhetoric around the ongoing conflict,” said counterterrorism chief Jukes in his January statement.




Anas Al-Tikriti, CEO and founder of the Cordoba Foundation, says when international community agencies such as the UN fail to protect people’s lives, people will feel that they need to take things into their own hands. (AFP)

“We always see spikes after terrorist incidents, but what we have seen since Oct. 7 is higher and more sustained than ever before. This is a conflict and these are tensions playing out online in a way which, in our experience, is unprecedented.” 

What is less clear is whether this climate of radicalization is confined to the online sphere or is now evident in communities.

“Although the greatest forum for radicalization in this conflict has occurred online, video has emerged from several mosques of Friday sermons that can only be designed to inflame the views of those listening,” said Mendoza.

“Campuses have also not been immune to the greater trend of protest marches where extremist rhetoric is often heard and slogans displayed. 

“The implications are clear that if the spread of this activity is not checked, then it will not only continue but also worsen as the boundaries for what is acceptable are pressed.”

Counterterrorism experts view online activity as a good — if imperfect — barometer of radicalization in public life. The dilemma for counterterrorism authorities is recognizing the difference between chatter and an impending real-world threat.

“Much of this extremist content and radicalization is taking place in the online space, which mirrors but exaggerates what is happening in real life,” said Winterbotham​​​​.

“There is still insufficient understanding of the relationship between online extremist content and offline behavior. It is important to work to identify risk factors, language patterns and behavioral indicators, especially in the online space to help identify which extremist individuals and groups pose a risk of violence.”




The implications of this climate of radicalization in the UK are being expressed in several ways. (AFP)

There have lately been troubling examples of how terrorist material posted online can influence public opinion in unexpected ways. 

In November, “Letter to the American People,” a 2002 manifesto penned by Osama bin Laden, suddenly went viral on TikTok, with influencers reading parts of the document and characterizing the former Al-Qaeda leader as a hero. 

“The fact that Gen Z sees content in these videos as more credible than mainstream news is deeply concerning and benefits Al-Qaeda and other violent extremist groups,” said Winterbotham​​​​. 

“We are also witnessing the growth of conspiracy theories. This is nothing new, but it is the combination of these with extremist narratives that is distinctive. Given the polarization and radicalization of the debate over Israel and Gaza, a minority of Britons are engaging with often highly prejudiced conspiracy theories.”

Given this growing constituency of radicalized individuals, experts suggest it is not beyond the realms of possibility for domestic and foreign terrorist organizations to incite or actively carry out violent acts on British soil.

The UK terror threat level is currently rated as “substantial” — the third of five tiers — which means that an attack is considered likely. If terrorist groups decide to mount an attack in the UK, this threat level could rise to “severe” or “critical.”




Experts suggest there are several ways in which extremist groups may try to spin events in the Middle East to fit a particular worldview. (AFP)

“Hamas itself potentially poses a threat to UK soil, and we have seen foiled Hamas plots in Germany and Denmark already last year,” said Winterbotham​​​​, referring to the Dec. 14 arrest of four people on suspicion of planning to target Jewish institutions in Europe.

“Possible responses include striking abroad at Israeli embassies, diplomatic facilities, and representatives,” she added.

But it is not just parties to the conflict who might seek out Western targets. Groups like Daesh are also likely searching for an opening. 

“Recently, (Daesh) spokesman Abu Hudhayfa launched a new speech, ‘And kill them wherever you find them,’ which encouraged lone actor attacks,” said Winterbotham​​​​.

“We’ve already seen an uptick in lone actor attacks since Oct. 7 in Arras, France, Paris, Brussels, and a foiled attack in Las Vegas. Links to Gaza have been made.”

Al-Qaeda might also try to exploit this climate, with recent online activity suggesting the terrorist network is trying to encourage lone wolf attacks.

“In recent months, Al-Qaeda has ramped up its incitements against US-allied Arab governments,” said Winterbotham​​​​.

“On Dec. 26, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula relaunched its English-language magazine Inspire, with a video showing scenes from Gaza, protests, and US support of Israel, calling for attacks in America and against Jewish and Western targets, including US, British and French airlines and high-profile figures and containing instructions for home-made explosives.”

Palestine has never been one of Al-Qaeda’s top priorities, says Winterbotham​​​​. “Rather, it used Palestine in rhetoric to broaden appeal. However, the presence of Al-Qaeda’s de facto leader, Saif Al-Adel, in Iran is influential.”




Elizabeth Pearson, a counterterrorism expert and author of the recently published book “Extreme Britain,” believes the Israel-Hamas conflict is acting as “a lightning rod” for radicalization — a phenomenon made worse by preexisting grievances.(AFP)

Indeed, given its support for Hamas and other regional proxy groups, including the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and various Shiite militias in Syria and Iraq, security officials also believe Iran is keen to exploit the climate of radicalization. 

In January, it emerged that videos of antisemitic speeches by Iranian generals, given to UK students, were being investigated by the Charity Commission. The regulator was also reportedly looking into chants of “death to Israel” at an Islamic charity’s UK premises.

The talks by members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, recorded in 2020 and 2021 and which included denial of the Holocaust and references to an apocalyptic war on Jews, added to growing concerns that the IRGC is attempting to radicalize UK Muslims. 

Security services have previously warned that the IRGC is inciting violence and plotting to kidnap or kill people on British soil, leading to calls for it to be designated a foreign terrorist organization. Some believe the war in Gaza provides Iran with fresh opportunities. 

“Iran’s game here is simple,” said Mendoza. “By posing as the leading international defender of Gaza — even though in reality its support for Gaza has brought complete destruction for Gaza’s Palestinian inhabitants — it is able to channel the emotional rage expressed by the public into solidarity for Iran’s own fight with the West. 

“Iran and its proxies hope to use Gaza for their own PR purposes, as can be seen by public support for the Houthis in sections of the West despite the Houthis’ appalling human rights record and theological beliefs.”

To counter the phenomenon of radicalization, the UK government launched Prevent, a system first established in 2007 in the wake of the 7/7 bombings, to allow public institutions to flag individuals exhibiting extremist tendencies.

The rate of these referrals is seen as another barometer of the scale of radicalization at a given moment.

According to counterterrorism chief Jukes, referrals to Prevent were up 13 percent between Oct. 7 and Dec. 31 last year compared with the same period in 2022. Jukes said the increase “is directly related to the conflict in the Middle East.”

But just how effective is the Prevent strategy in stopping ideas from turning into intent?

“One of the issues with programs like Prevent is that they tend to be better at countering ideas by dismantling structured ideological belief systems,” said Winterbotham​​​​.




There have lately been troubling examples of how terrorist material posted online can influence public opinion in unexpected ways. (AFP)

“This may be of limited use when addressing issues related to the Middle East and contemporary forms of extremism based on hybrid and mixed ideologies.”

She called for “a more comprehensive engagement, involving a whole-of-society response that combines integrated, non-securitized preventive actions with targeted prevention activities.

“In countering extremist ideas and terrorist groups that aim to undermine democracy, it is more important than ever to establish robust systems of governance that treat all individuals fairly and consistently. 

“It is a key principle of our counterterrorism work but much of this goes far beyond counterterrorism.”

Pearson concurs that counter-radicalization policies need to be implemented sensitively — else they make matters worse.

“It’s important that those in charge do not amplify the emotions surrounding this conflict. Effective leadership should serve to calm, not inflame,” she said.

“Labels such as terrorist and extremist have tended to expand in recent years, covering more people and offenses. The UK should take care not to needlessly expand these terms.”

Of course, one way to remove the threat posed by radicalization emanating from the Gaza war would be a resolution to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict — the cause of so much instability in the Middle East.

“There’s a very reasonable and quite sensible stand that the UK should have adopted many months ago,” said The Cordoba Foundation’s Al-Tikriti.

“That is to call for a ceasefire, which the UK government not only failed to do but went as far as to sack and to punish those who ever uttered the word, and even going as far as to label those who spoke of a ceasefire of being antisemitic, which is utterly absurd.” 

Under the circumstances, is there a danger that extremist narratives may seem vindicated if the international community fails to move the dial on the Middle East peace process or if the conflict escalates further in the region?​




Arab officials have warned that provocative actions of Israeli forces deployed in the Gaza Strip would inflame feelings in Arab and Islamic countries. (AFP)

​“Obviously when states, when international community agencies such as the UN, fail to protect people’s lives, when they fail to take control and to punish those who commit crimes, people will feel that they need to take things into their own hands,” said Al-Tikriti.

“And they will raise the volume of their narratives, the tone of their narratives, in order to expose the failures in the international community. 

“The other side will call this extremist. The government might also call it extremist. The head of UK counterterrorism policing might also call it extremist. I just call it a natural human reaction.”

For Mendoza, the international community’s response is likely immaterial in the eyes of extremist groups. “Extremists will use whatever factor they can to further their narratives,” he said. 

“If the dial is not turned on Middle East peace, they will use that as a path to recruiting for justice. And yet if the dial is turned, they will reject the peace deal that emerges as a betrayal of the historic land of Palestine and use that instead. 

“Equally, whether there is or isn’t further conflict in the Middle East, the situation will be spun to their benefit. This reminds us that the real problem of radicalization is not a foreign policy issue but a domestic policy. 

“If extremists are given free rein to organize and push their propaganda, then they will reap the rewards. It is only by adopting a zero-tolerance approach to their fantasies that we will be able to put the genie of radicalization back into its bottle.”

Regardless of how extremist groups may manipulate the narrative, the figures published by UK counterterrorism authorities show a correlation between the conflict in the Middle East and increased radicalization, creating a potential security threat.

“Extremist narratives resonate because they always contain some kernels of truth,” said Pearson. “The longer a conflict goes on, the more violence and injustice is visible online that bolsters the narrative, the greater the ongoing risk.”

 


Emir of Qatar begins Asia tour with state visit to Philippines

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Updated 5 sec ago
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Emir of Qatar begins Asia tour with state visit to Philippines

Emir of Qatar begins Asia tour with state visit to Philippines
  • During his tour the emir will speak with the countries’ leaders and senior officials

DUBAI: The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad began his state visit to Manila, the Philippine capital, on Sunday as part of his Asia tour, reported the Qatar News Agency.

Sheikh Tamim received a welcome at Maharlika Presidential Airport from a delegation including Rafael Perbeto Lutilia, minister of energy; Ahmed bin Saad Al-Humaidi, ambassador of Qatar to the Philippines; and Lilibeth Velasco Puno, ambassador of the Philippines to Qatar, along with several senior officials from the Philippine government and members of the Qatari Embassy.

Accompanied by an official delegation, Sheikh Tamim’s itinerary includes visits to Bangladesh and Nepal following his time in the Philippines.

During his tour, the emir will speak with the countries’ leaders and senior officials, focusing on ways to enhance cooperation and discussing issues of common interest.

Additionally, agreements and memoranda of understanding are expected to be signed across various fields.


Health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says war death toll at 34,097

Health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says war death toll at 34,097
Updated 59 min 24 sec ago
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Health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says war death toll at 34,097

Health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says war death toll at 34,097
  • The tally includes at least 48 deaths in the past 24 hours, a ministry statement said

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories: The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said Sunday that at least 34,097 people have been killed in the territory during more than six months of war between Israel and Palestinian militants.
The tally includes at least 48 deaths in the past 24 hours, a ministry statement said, adding that 76,980 people have been wounded in the Gaza Strip since the war began when Hamas militants attacked Israel on October 7.


Sultan of Oman to visit UAE on Monday - WAM

Sultan of Oman to visit UAE on Monday - WAM
Updated 21 April 2024
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Sultan of Oman to visit UAE on Monday - WAM

Sultan of Oman to visit UAE on Monday - WAM

DUBAI: Sultan Haitham of Oman will visit the UAE on Monday for talks with President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, state news agency WAM reported. 

During the visit, both leaders will discuss “the deep-rooted, historical relations between the UAE and Oman and cooperation in various fields,” the agency said. 

The two leaders will also discuss a number of regional and international issues of common interest. 


Kuwait’s PM will serve as emir’s deputy if emir is abroad - KUNA

Kuwait’s PM will serve as emir’s deputy if emir is abroad - KUNA
Updated 21 April 2024
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Kuwait’s PM will serve as emir’s deputy if emir is abroad - KUNA

Kuwait’s PM will serve as emir’s deputy if emir is abroad - KUNA

DUBAI: Kuwait’s prime minister-designate Ahmad Abdullah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah will serve as the emir’s deputy when the latter is not in the country, state news agency KUNA said on Sunday, citing a royal decree.

Emir Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, who was sworn in December, has yet to choose a crown prince, who would usually be his deputy.

The Emir selected Ahmad Abdullah Al-Ahmad after the cabinet’s resignation earlier this month. 

The expected move comes after a new parliament was elected and is a procedural one as the current government has to submit its resignation before the legislature’s inauguration.


West Bank village counts losses after settler attack, and fears more

West Bank village counts losses after settler attack, and fears more
Updated 21 April 2024
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West Bank village counts losses after settler attack, and fears more

West Bank village counts losses after settler attack, and fears more
  • Attack began after Israeli went missing, later found dead
  • Residents say Israeli army did nothing to stop raid

AL-MUGHAYYER: The Israeli settlers who rampaged through the West Bank village of Al-Mughayyer on April 12 came in greater numbers and carried more weapons than during any of the previous raids on the Palestinian community, residents said.
Days later, torched homes and cars still bear testament to the attack, which residents said lasted several hours and that they said Israeli soldiers did nothing to stop.
With few means to defend themselves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, they fear more such assaults on the village.
“We have stones and they have weapons, and the army supports the settlers,” said Abdullatif Abu Alia, whose house came under attack. His roof was spattered with the blood of Palestinians wounded as they tried to repel the attackers with rocks. One of them, his relative Jihad Abu Alia, was shot and killed, he said.
“Of course, the aim is to force displacement,” he added.
Al-Mughayyer was one of several Palestinian villages raided by settlers over several days beginning April 12, an escalation that began after a 14-year-old Israeli went missing. His body was discovered not far from Al-Mughayyer the following day.
Israel said he was killed in a terrorist attack.
Violence in the West Bank, seized by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, was already surging before the Gaza war began in October — fueling further bloodshed in the territory.
Settler violence is a source of growing concern among Israel’s Western allies. A number of countries, including the United States, have imposed sanctions on violent settlers and urged Israel to do more to stop the violence.
Washington imposed sanctions on Friday on an ally of Israel’s far-right national security minister and two entities that raised money for Israeli men accused of settler violence.
The Israeli military said confrontations had spread in the area as a result of the teenager’s killing, and included “exchanges of gunfire, mutual stone throwing and property arson in which Israeli and Palestinian civilians were injured.”
Asked about residents’ accusations that soldiers had done nothing to stop the Al-Mughayyer attack, the military said the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and security forces operated with the aim of protecting “the property and lives of all citizens and dispersing the confrontations.”
Gunshot wounds
Ameen Abu Alia, the head of Al-Mughayyer’s municipal council, said 45 Palestinians suffered gunshot wounds in the attack, which began after hundreds of settlers had congregated on a road near the village.
Israeli troops arrived shortly before it started, setting up road blocks and a cordon which left houses on the village outskirts cut off from its center, meaning villagers could not to go to aid those who were under attack, he said.
The soldiers also prevented ambulances from reaching the area to treat wounded people, he said.
The Israeli military said ambulances “were delayed for a security check and then they were given the authorization to continue.”
Abu Alia, the municipal council head, accused the Israeli army of providing security for the settler raid, which the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said had been “accompanied by Israeli forces.”
Complaints about soldiers’ behavior that was not in accordance with orders will be examined, the Israeli military said.
Israel has settled the West Bank extensively since 1967, viewing it as the biblical Judea and Samaria and critical to Israel’s security. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s promotion of settlement growth has drawn US criticism.
The settlements have eaten up West Bank land where Palestinians have long aimed to establish an independent state that would also include the Gaza Strip and have East Jerusalem as its capital.
Fire truck torched, sheep stolen
His home torched in the attack, Shehadah Abu Rasheed has pitched a tent to provide temporary shelter. Inside, the walls of the house were charred black. Abu Rasheed said his wife was hit by a settler and one of his four children lightly wounded by gunfire.
The settlers also torched a fire truck sent to Al-Mughayyer by the Palestinian civil defense service during the attack, the civil defense said. Its charred remains were being loaded onto a truck when Reuters journalists visited on Wednesday.
OCHA reported that the settlers fully burnt 21 houses in Al-Mughayyer, displacing 86 Palestinians, and that 32 vehicles were damaged, and some 220 sheep were killed or stolen.
It was unconfirmed if the Palestinian man who died during the raid was killed by Israeli forces or settlers, it said.
Four of seven Palestinians killed in the West Bank between April 12 and 15 died in incidents involving Israeli settlers in a series of attacks on Palestinian communities during and after the search for the 14-year-old Israeli, OCHA reported. Another Palestinian man was killed in a settler raid on April 20, the Palestinian health ministry said.
The United States, Britain and the European Union have all imposed sanctions on violent settlers in recent months.
US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said at an April 15 briefing that Washington condemned last weekend’s violence against Palestinians just as strongly as it condemned the murder of the 14-year-old Israeli. The United States has said it is “incredibly concerned” that Israeli security forces were not doing enough to stop settler violence, he said.
Al-Mughayyer is located in a part of the West Bank where Israel has full security control under interim peace accords which Palestinian leaders signed three decades ago in the belief they would eventually lead to an independent state.
The arrangements mean most of the West Bank is off limits to the security forces of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority. Abdullatif Abu Alia, the Al-Mughayyer resident, said the most he hoped for from the Palestinian government was help to erect a protective fence around his house and reinforce the windows.
“What else can they do? They can’t even protect themselves,” he said, referring to Israeli raids into Palestinian cities.