Israeli minister pushes for targetted killings, flattening of buildings in West Bank
Amid calls for an end to the mounting violence taking place in the West Bank, Israel’s far-right national security minister on Wednesday pushed for tougher action against Palestinian resistance, including the destruction of their homes.
“We need a military operation, we need to flatten buildings, we need targeted killings,” Itamar Ben-Gvir told parliament on Wednesday.
“That’s how you act against terrorism,” added Ben-Gvir, one of the hard-right parties in Netanyahu’s religious-nationalist coalition.
Other senior ministers in Netanyahu’s government on Wednesday also called for a full-scale military operation across the West Bank.
Some other ministers played down the demand for additional measures. “There’s no need for any new decisions, only adaptation of existing ones,” Energy Minister Israel Katz, a member of the government Security Cabinet, told Army Radio.
The calls for tougher action came after Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian towns, torching cars and buildings in retaliation for an attack by Hamas gunmen a day earlier. Four Israelis were killed on Tuesday by Hamas gunmen who opened fire on a roadside restaurant near the settlement of Eli.
One Palestinian was shot dead during the attack while at least one other was critically injured, Palestinian health officials said.
Residents of a number of other Palestinian towns reported settler attacks after the killings and senior ministers in Netanyahu’s government called for a full-scale military operation across the West Bank.
Yaqoub Oweis, chairman of the village council of Al-Lubban Al-Sharqeya near Ramallah, said Israeli soldiers and police stood by as a large group of settlers burned a petrol station, orchards, a cement factory and dozens of cars.
“The attack was unprecedented and abnormal,” he said. “There was heavy gunfire but we couldn’t distinguish whether it came from settlers or the soldiers because of the darkness.”
The US condemned the settler violence and called “for Israeli authorities to immediately stop the violence, protect US and Palestinian civilians, and prosecute those responsible.”
Both Egypt and Jordan, which have diplomatic relations with Israel, condemned the attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned all acts of violence against civilians, “including acts of terror,” deputy UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said in a statement.
“It is crucial to reduce tensions and to prevent further escalation. Israel, as the Occupying Power, must ensure that the civilian population is protected against all acts of violence, and that perpetrators are held to account,” Haq said.
Violence had flared up after the Netanyahu government stepped up plans for new homes in the Palestinian territories.
Netanyahu’s office said Israel planned to add 1,000 new homes to the Eli settlement, defying international calls for a halt to new settlement projects.
Palestinians have complained repeatedly of attacks by settlers in the West Bank, an issue that has also drawn mounting international concern.
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.”
There has been no sign of any new effort to find a political solution, however. US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, aimed at establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, collapsed in 2014.
Netanyahu’s government includes members who rule out a Palestinian state while Hamas, which advocates armed resistance against Israel, has been steadily expanding its operations in the West Bank.
Monday’s military arrest raid in Jenin, the apparent trigger for the killing of the four Israelis, touched off hours of fighting with heavily armed Palestinian militants. Seven Palestinians died, more than 90 were wounded and seven Israeli personnel were wounded.
So far this year, 174 Palestinians, most of them militants but several of them civilians, have been killed by Israeli forces. At the same time, 24 Israelis and one foreigner have been killed in attacks by Palestinians in the West Bank, around Jerusalem and in some Israeli cities.