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Palestinian villagers attacked in wake of Israeli settler killings, Palestinian official says

<i>Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>People stand near a burnt car
Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images
People stand near a burnt car

By Kareem Khadder, CNN

Jerusalem (CNN) — Hundreds of Israeli settlers attacked the Palestinian village of Turmusayya in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, the day after the killing of four settlers nearby, according to the mayor of the village.

One Palestinian man was killed, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said. Palestine TV named him as Omar Quttain, 27.

At least 12 people from the town were injured by live fire, Mayor Adeeb Laffi said, shortly before the announcement of Quttain’s death. He said masked settlers were setting fire to cars and homes.

The health ministry said three people had arrived at a hospital in Ramallah with injuries in the lower limbs from live fire.

“The Israeli army is not doing anything to stop them,” Laffi said, in reference to the settlers.

Turmusayya is less than five miles (eight kilometers) from Eli, where the four Israelis were killed on Tuesday.

Laffi said more than 50 vehicles and 15 houses had been set on fire in his village by Israeli settlers who arrived in the town after Muslim noon prayers.

Many of the settlers were masked and carried guns, he said.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said Israeli civilians “burned vehicles and possessions belonging to Palestinians” in Turmusayya, and that the military “condemns these serious incidents of violence and destruction of property.”

The IDF said security forces “entered the town in order to extinguish the fires, prevent clashes and to collect evidence,” and that the Israel Police had opened an investigation into the event, according to a statement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted Wednesday that his country was a “nation of laws,” in the wake of the settler attacks.

“All citizens of Israel are obligated to obey the law. We will not allow disturbances,” Netanyahu said. “We will not accept any provocations to the police or the security forces in these places or anywhere else. We are a nation of laws.”

Amid the rising tensions, the IDF carried out a drone strike on a vehicle containing what they called a “terrorist cell” in the West Bank, the IDF and Israel Security Agency, or Shin Bet, said later on Wednesday.

The IDF said the cell had carried out several shooting attacks toward communities in the West Bank lately – and that the Israeli military had fired from an unmanned arial vehicle, or drone, at the cell and “thwarted them.” It is very rare for Israel to target individuals with drone strikes in the West Bank.

The three people killed in the strike were members of the militant Jenin Brigade, the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad said. The Jenin Brigade is a loose association of Palestinian militants, some of whom belong to more than one overlapping group.

Two of those killed in the drone strike were from the al-Quds Brigade, the militant wing of Islamic Jihad. Islamic Jihad named them as Suhaib Adnan al-Ghoul, 27, whom they called a field commander, and Ashraf Murad Al-Saadi, 17, whom they called a fighter.

Islamic Jihad said the third person was Muhammad Bashar Aweys, 28, one of the leaders of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. That is the militant wing of the secular Palestinian nationalist group Fatah.

Videos obtained by CNN show plumes of smoke rising from a vehicle on fire.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant praised the IDF strike in a tweet, saying, “I praise the security forces who a short time ago carried out a targeted elimination of a terrorist squad that was firing towards Israeli territory, and had previously carried out several shooting attacks,” he said.

“Against terrorism we will take an offensive and proactive approach, we will use all the means at our disposal and we will exact the heaviest price from every terrorist or terrorist courier,” Gallant said.

Overnight attacks

The settler attack in Turmusayya comes after a Palestinian official who monitors settler violence against Palestinians in the northern West Bank said dozens of villagers had been injured overnight in settler attacks.

At least 37 villagers were injured by live or rubber-coated bullets, stones, or tear gas according to the official, Ghassan Douglas.

He said 147 vehicles were damaged with stones or set on fire, including an ambulance, and that 23 houses and 16 shops were damaged, and crops set on fire in fields.

The violence was reminiscent of settler attacks in and around the village of Huwara in February in response to the killing of two Israeli settler brothers in the village. February’s violence was so severe that the commander of Israeli forces in the West Bank called it a “pogrom,” evoking historic memories of ethnic violence targeting Jews.

The attacks overnight on Tuesday took place over a wide area of the northern West Bank, from Turmusayya east of Ramallah to Deir Sharaf west of Nablus, he said. The area is about 50 kilometers (30 miles) north from Jerusalem.

Different Israeli officials sent different messages in the wake of Tuesday’s shooting of the settlers which included two teenagers, a man in his 20s and a man in his 60s.

Israel Defense Forces (IDF) chief spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari urged people not to take the law into their own hands.

But far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, speaking at the scene of the killings near Eli, called on settlers to arm themselves to avoid becoming sitting ducks for Palestinian attacks.

On Monday, an Israeli raid in Jenin, one of the tensest cities in the occupied West Bank, erupted into a massive firefight that left at least seven Palestinians dead and dozens wounded.

The following day, two Palestinian gunmen shot dead the four Israelis near Eli. Both gunmen were subsequently killed by Israeli forces. Hamas, the Palestinian militant movement, claimed the two gunmen as members. It said the attack was “a natural response” to the Israeli raid on Jenin a day earlier.

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CNN’s Hadas Gold contributed reporting.

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