Tensions Flare in West Bank After Israeli Teenager Is Found Dead


The disappearance and death of an Israeli teenager, whose body was found on Saturday in the West Bank, spurred deadly rioting by Israeli settlers in Palestinian villages, ratcheting up tensions even further in the occupied territory.

Settlers unleashed a wave of mob violence in a Palestinian village near Ramallah on Friday and carried out mob assaults in at least two villages on Saturday, after the Israeli authorities announced that the teenager, Binyamin Achimair, had been found dead.

The Israeli police said Binyamin, 14, had left a farming settlement in the West Bank to herd sheep on Friday morning but never returned. Israeli forces found his body on Saturday near the settlement, Malachei HaShalom, in the central West Bank.

The second day of unrest erupted in the village near Ramallah, Al Mughayir, and another Palestinian village, Duma, an Israeli security official said. Israeli settlers, some of them armed, entered the villages, the official added. There were reports that the settlers had opened fire.

The Israeli military said in a statement that dozens of Palestinians and Israelis were wounded during clashes at several locations across the West Bank on Saturday. It described them as “confrontations between Israeli civilians and Palestinians” in which “rocks were hurled and shots were fired.” The statement said the military and police worked to disperse the crowds.

In Duma, the attackers “covered the entire village,” some of them armed, said Naser Dawabsheh, a resident. They set several buildings and cars ablaze, sending a cloud of dense smoke over the village, he said. Rather than dispersing the Israeli rioters, the Israeli military protected them, he added.

On Friday, while the teenager was still missing, settlers torched cars and buildings in Al Mughayir, Palestinian officials said. One Palestinian man — Jihad Abu Aliya — was killed and 25 others wounded after armed Israeli settlers burst into the village, said its mayor, Amin Abu Aliya. In a video circulated by Yesh Din, an Israeli rights group, smoke can be seen billowing from burning cars and buildings.

The casualties in Al Mughayir climbed on Saturday, when at least three Palestinians were wounded, one critically, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

“There’s no order, there’s no safety,” said Na’asan Na’asan, 28, a resident of Al Mughayir. “They’re shooting at us — why isn’t there anyone to protect us?”

The clashes underscored the brewing tensions in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where roughly 500,000 Israeli settlers live alongside about 2.7 million Palestinians. Israeli and Palestinian officials have worried that wider conflict could erupt in the territory, which has seen a sharp uptick in violence in recent months but not widespread unrest.

The clashes on Saturday came several hours before Iran launched drones toward Israeli territory in apparent retaliation for an airstrike in the Syrian capital of Damascus on April 1 that killed several senior Iranian commanders. The region had been bracing for an attack from Iran, which analysts and officials warned could spur an Israeli reaction and potentially provoke an even broader conflict.

In a statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel denounced the “heinous murder” of the Israeli teenager and vowed that Israel would “close accounts” with whoever killed him. He did not explicitly mention the rioting, instead telling the Israeli public to “allow the security forces to conduct their work unmolested” as they carried out their investigation.

The Israeli military announced on Saturday that it would bolster its forces in the West Bank with additional companies and police.

Tensions have been mounting in the West Bank as much of the world’s focus has been on Gaza, where Israel has led a devastating six-month campaign since the surprise assault on Oct. 7 by Hamas, the Palestinian armed group.

Since the Hamas-led attacks, over 400 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to the United Nations, one of the deadliest periods in years. Palestinian militants have occasionally attacked Israeli soldiers and civilians, killing at least 14, while Israeli forces have carried out a sweeping crackdown, arresting thousands.

In Gaza, active fighting had receded recently to its lowest point in months, after the Israeli military withdrew its troops from the southern part of the devastated territory. But the pace picked up again this week as the military shifted its focus to the central Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military announced on Thursday that it had begun a “precise operation” in central Gaza. It added in a statement on Saturday that its troops were continuing the operation there and had destroyed Hamas infrastructure over the past day.

Hamas said in a statement on Friday that the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, which is “crowded with displaced people from various regions of the strip,” was under “a barbaric attack” that resulted “in dozens of martyrs and wounded.”

“Bombardment and shelling have not stopped” since the Israeli raid began on Thursday afternoon, Khalil Farid, 57, said in a text message exchange on Friday. “The army gave no warning of this operation,” said Mr. Farid, who lives in the camp. He added that “no leaflets were dropped, and no one was told where to go or what to do.”

The United Nations’ office for humanitarian affairs said on Friday that three Palestinians were reportedly killed and others injured when a U.N. school that was housing displaced people in Nuseirat was hit. The Palestinian civil defense authorities in Gaza said their rescue crews had received “dozens of distress calls” after an Israeli strike on the school killed and wounded several people. They said they were unable to evacuate people because it was too dangerous to enter the area.

Hiba Yazbek, Abu Bakr Bashir, Eric Schmitt and Michael D. Shear contributed reporting.


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