9th Dec 2023

Israeli 'rage' in West Bank alarms France and US

  • Israeli soldier on patrol in Hebron in the West Bank in 2019 (Photo:
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Israeli aggression against Palestinians in the West Bank has drawn French and US warnings, as Israel keeps bombing Gaza after EU leaders appealed for a "pause".

"[Israeli] prime minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu does have a responsibility to rein in the extremist settlers on the West Bank who are ... pouring fuel on the fire," US national-security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a TV interview on Sunday (29 October).

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The French foreign ministry said: "France strongly condemns the settler attacks that have led to the deaths of several Palestinian civilians over the past few days ... as well as the forced departure of several communities".

They spoke after an Israeli settler shot dead a 40-year old Palestinian who was harvesting olives in the West Bank earlier the same day, in the seventh settler killing since the Gaza war broke out.

Israeli forces have also killed over 100 Palestinians in the West Bank in the same time frame, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

They killed four more people in a raid on the Jenin refugee camp on Sunday.

And lethal incidents aside, a wave of violent harassment by armed settlers, with Israeli military protection, has also driven dozens of West Bank Palestinian families from their homes in the past 20 days.

"These incidents are likely to set the area alight", Israeli intelligence chief Ronen Bar warned his own government on Sunday, Israeli media reported.

"Settlers have been exploiting the lack of public attention to the West Bank, as well as the general atmosphere of rage against Palestinians, to escalate their campaign of violent attacks in an attempt to forcibly transfer Palestinian communities," said a coalition of 30 NGOs, including prominent Israeli human-rights groups Breaking the Silence and B'Tselem.

And the Israeli "rage" has poured out on social media platforms, such as X, even though EU institutions have focused their complaints to X CEO Elon Musk on antisemitic content.

"Jericho Missile! Strategic alert. Before considering bringing forces [into Gaza]. Doomsday weapon!," said Revital Gottlieb, an MP from Netanyahu's party, on 9 October, in one example — Jericho missiles can reportedly carry nuclear warheads.

"If, in order to finally eliminate the military capabilities of Hamas ... we need a million bodies, then let there be a million bodies", tweeted Israeli journalist Roy Sharon on 17 October.

"Erase Gaza, don't leave a single person there," said Israeli singer Eyal Golan. Netanyahu's wife, Sara, told press: "I want a big revenge".

"We are living through terrible times," Breaking the Silence director Yehuda Shaul told EUobserver from Jerusalem.

"Honestly, I'm still trying to grasp everything that has happened and to keep up with everything that is still going on," he added.

When asked about West Bank violence by press in Brussels on Monday, the European Commission said it had no comment.

When EU leaders, at a summit in Brussels last Thursday, called on Israel to create a "humanitarian pause" for aid to reach Gaza, they also didn't mention the West Bank or settler aggression.

The EU didn't give a time-frame for the "pause", but, in any case, Israel continued bombing Gaza over the weekend, where local health authorities are now reporting more than 8,000 deaths.

"Unfortunately, as time passes, things are getting worse," said a contact from the UN relief agency in Gaza, UNRWA, on Monday, four days after EU leaders spoke out.

"We have lost so far 63 [UNRWA] colleagues and are just terrified that the number might have increased given the bombardments overnight [Sunday]," they added.

After three weeks of Israel's siege, with no water, electricity, or medicine allowed into Gaza, the foreign assistance reaching people in need "is a drop in the ocean", UNRWA said.

The EU has delivered two plane-loads of hygiene kits and medical equipment for the 2.3 million people in Gaza since fighting began.

Political solution

Breaking the Silence's Shaul lost two colleagues when Palestinian group Hamas, which rules Gaza, killed some 1,400 Israelis in a surprise attack on 7 October.

But despite the Hamas atrocities, Shaul voiced sympathy for the "horrors" now being suffered by Gaza civilians.

EU leaders, last Thursday, also called for an international peace summit on the decades' old conflict, due in six months' time.

And Shaul wasn't alone in blowing against the gales of online hatred, amid calls for restraint even by some of Hamas' direct victims.

"How am I get supposed to get up in the morning knowing that in Gaza, 4.5km from the Kibbutz Be'eri, there are people for whom this event has not ended? For me, it was over after 12 hours because there was a place to be evacuated to," said a 19-year old Israeli from the kibbutz, who narrowly survived Hamas' attack.

"Those speaking of revenge should be ashamed," she said, in comments viewed more than 1.1m times.

Shaul, who is a former Israeli Defence Forces commander, said: "If anyone is serious about saving Jewish and Palestinian life in the future, one must tackle the root causes, which are the ongoing occupation".

"Only a political solution that delivers equality and self determination to both peoples in Israel-Palestine will bring peace and security," he said.

EU backs Israel-Palestine peace summit, Spain solo on ceasefire

Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez proposed an international peace summit in six months to address the Palestine-Israel conflict. However, Madrid's attempt to include a humanitarian "ceasefire" reference in the Brussels summit's conclusions failed.

Arab diplomats voice anger at EU inaction on Gaza war

Palestine's EU envoy and 15 other Arab diplomats have voiced outrage at Europe's inaction on Israel's killing in Gaza. The Palestinian ambassador also hit out at "Israeli lies" over the Al-Ahli hospital bombing on Tuesday night.

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