Israeli settlers attack Palestinians in flashpoint West Bank town

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HUWARA, March 7 (Reuters) – Israeli settlers attacked Palestinians in the West Bank village of Huwara overnight on Monday, the scene of a violent rampage last week by dozens of settlers seeking revenge for the shooting of two Israeli brothers.

Huwara, a Palestinian village near a major road checkpoint, has become the latest flashpoint between Israelis and Palestinians after months of worsening violence in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli army and border police forces dispersed crowds of what the military described as “a number of violent riots” in Huwara and videos shared on social media showed a group of black-clad youths attacking a Palestinian car before its driver manages to pull away.

“They were shooting at us with live ammunition. God helped us,” said Omar Khalifa, who had just finished shopping at a supermarket and had got into the car with his family when the attack took place.

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“My wife was sitting in the back and she hugged our daughter to cover her. We could have lost her, there was real danger to our lives.”

Other footage appeared to show Israeli soldiers dancing together with Jewish settlers in the town on what was the Jewish festival of Purim. “Huwara has been conquered, gentlemen!,” a voice is heard saying in Hebrew.

As well as fuelling deep anger among Palestinians, the clashes in Huwara have exposed political fault lines in Israel that have already been deepened by a bitter battle over an overhaul of the justice system being pushed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s religious-nationalist government.

“A group of hooligan settlers, in the middle of the Purim holiday, went to attack innocent passers-by in the village of Huwara,” the leader of the centre-lift opposition Labour Party Merav Michaeli said on Twitter.

“This is not ‘youth at the margins’ – this is the mainstream, supported by key members of the current government,” she added. “Both of them are destroying Israel.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken overnight reiterated calls for both sides to de-escalate tensions in the West Bank, where Israeli forces have killed more than 65 Palestinians, including militant fighters and civilians, this year.

In the same period, Palestinians have killed 13 Israelis and one Ukrainian woman in a series of apparently uncoordinated attacks by individuals.

Reporting by Ali Sawafta and Dan Williams, editing by Ed Osmond

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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