Army blocks Israeli rally in support of burnt-out West Bank town
Activists from Israeli rights groups say soldiers and border guards blocked buses full of protesters from entering the occupied West Bank town of Hawara, which still bears the scars of the attack by the Sunday Settlers.
According to Sally Abed of the group Standing Together, soldiers threw at least two protesters to the ground as they tried to arrest them, kicking them and handcuffing them. Both were eventually released, she added.
The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Hundreds of settlers, some armed with knives and guns, ransacked Hawara on Sunday and burned dozens of homes and businesses after two Israeli brothers were gunned down nearby. A Palestinian was killed in the mob assault.
On Friday, some 500 people waving solidarity signs and Palestinian flags – mostly elderly men and women, Jews and Arab citizens – got off the buses and marched towards Hawara in defiance of army orders.
Palestinian motorists honked their horns in support. The demonstrators chanted “No to occupation” and “End Jewish terror”. Facing the mass of police and soldiers deployed to stop their peaceful protest, they shouted, “Where were you when Hawara performed? – referring to the intense rampage that has gone largely unchecked and unpunished.
In response to the crowd of protesters heading towards Hawara, the Israeli army fired stun grenades and tried to stop them, Abed said.
“It is ridiculous that the military is allowing settlers into Hawara as we speak, but we – Israeli Jews and Arabs who wish to show our solidarity – we are told there is no entry” , said Standing Together. The group said the rally had been coordinated with the local council and residents.
Unlike Palestinian cities like Ramallah which are under Palestinian Authority control, Hawara is primarily under Israeli security control. The Israeli army said the ferocity and scale of the settler mobs earlier in the week took them by surprise. The Ministry of Defense has sent two alleged leaders of the violence to administrative detention.
A city of 7,000 Palestinians surrounded by ideological settlements, Hawara has long been a hotbed of violence between Israelis and Palestinians
Earlier on Friday, a delegation of European diplomats traveled to Hawara and a nearby village to view the damage and denounce the chaos.
A chorus of condemnation over the rampage poured in from around the world, especially after Finance Minister and settler leader Bezalel Smotrich said on Wednesday that Hawara should be “erased.” Smotrich, whose party wants Israel to formally annex large parts of the West Bank, later backtracked.
On Friday, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry called Smotrich’s remarks “a dangerous and unacceptable incitement to violence”.
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