Israeli troops say they will deal with settler ‘terrorism’

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By Webdesk

Israeli security chiefs are strengthening military presence and making arrests of settlers attacking Palestinian villages.

Israeli security chiefs are calling a series of settler attacks on Palestinian villages over the past week “nationalist terrorism”, drawing the ire of far-right cabinet ministers.

Israel’s army, police and internal security chiefs issued a joint statement on Saturday following several attacks in the occupied West Bank, also stating they will step up countermeasures.

The security chiefs promised to strengthen their military presence, while the Shin Bet internal security agency will ramp up arrests, including the use of “administrative detention”, where suspects can be held without charge.

That practice, denounced by human rights groups, is largely used against Palestinians.

Violence has engulfed the West Bank over the past week since Israeli troops stormed the Jenin refugee camp on Monday to arrest two suspects, sparking condemnation from international actors, including the United States and the United Nations.

On Saturday, settlers set fire to at least two houses in the Palestinian village of Umm Safa near Ramallah, arresting one Israeli suspect, the Israeli military said.

Earlier this week, hundreds of Israeli settlers stormed the village of Turmus Ayya and set fire to dozens of cars and houses.

Far-right national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said on Sunday that the announcement by Israel’s security forces amounts to “collective punishment” of Jewish settlers.

Ben-Gvir questioned why the police had blocked the gates to the Ateret settlement to screen those coming and going and “groped a person standing nearby”.

The security chief’s statement angered another far-right minister within the Israeli cabinet.

“The attempt to equate murderous Arab terrorism with civilian counteractions, serious as they are, is immoral and dangerous,” said Treasury Secretary Bezalel Smotrich, who also called on settlers not to “take the law into their own hands.”

Also on Saturday, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak encouraged protesters in their 25th consecutive week of civil disobedience protests against the government’s reform plans.

Tensions are running high in the region as Israel vows to press ahead with its judicial reform plans despite ongoing protests, and as it expands its military incursions into the occupied territory under its most right-wing government to date.

Palestinians have fought back the raids, in which a Palestinian teenager was shot dead in an attack on the Qalandia military checkpoint on Saturday. On Tuesday, four Israeli settlers were killed at a gas station between the Palestinian cities of Ramallah and Nablus, reportedly by Palestinian gunmen.

More than 700,000 Israelis live in illegal settlements not recognized by international law in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 war.

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