Five Palestinians and two Israeli settlers were arrested by Israeli security forces on suspicion of involvement in violent clashes between settlers and residents in the West Bank town of Burqa over the weekend, which left a 19-year-old Palestinian dead.
Two Israeli settlers allegedly involved in the fighting were arrested at the scene on Saturday, and one went to hospital. According to Haaretz, the police could recommend charging the detainees with offenses of aggravated assault and causing serious bodily harm. The police also said that the investigation is ongoing and that more arrests are expected in the coming days.
The five Palestinians detained on Monday morning — a father and his four sons, two of whom are minors — were allegedly involved in clashes that followed the shooting on Friday evening. Walla! news site reported that the five detainees were taken to the police station for further investigation, and that they were the first Palestinians to be questioned over the incident. The father was also shot at during the clashes, reported Walla!, though this claim has not been verified.
Details of the incident on Friday night, which took place on Burqa’s agricultural lands, are yet unclear. The police suspects that clashes between Israeli settlers and the Palestinians started following a fight over grazing lands. During the clashes, a settler shot and killed Quasi Jamal Matan. Another settler sustained a serious head injury by a rock thrown at him by Burqa residents. At least four Palestinians were also injured in the clashes. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) — not present at the scene during the incident — arrived later, evacuating the injured and informing the police about what had happened.
Burqa residents told Haaretz that settlers from the nearby Oz Zion outpost arrived to their lands with their herd of sheep on Friday afternoon. The settlers, said the residents, vandalized property, burned at least one car, threw stones at them and then fired live ammunition, killing Matan and injuring other local Palestinians.
The far-right legal aid organization Honenu, which represents the Jewish suspects, claimed the shooting was in self-defense, and that the dozens of Palestinians who confronted the settlers tried to lynch them. The settlers, said Honenu, were being pelted with rocks and fireworks thrown by Palestinians. Still, the group did not explain why the (religious) settlers brought their sheep to graze on the Burqa lands just a few hours before the beginning of the Sabbath.
Shortly after the incident, Israeli troops detained two Israeli settlers — Elisha Yered, former spokesperson for the far-right Jewish Power party’s legislator Limor Son Har-Melech, and Yehiel Indore. Indore is believed to be the person who shot Matan. He is currently hospitalized in serious condition. Yered is suspected of obstructing police investigation into the shooting. The court extended on Sunday the remand of Yered and Indore until Wednesday, while Indore remains under police guard in a Jerusalem hospital.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir had backed the settlers after the incident, calling on the police to “expedite the investigation and also hold a comprehensive probe of all the Arab attackers who threw rocks and tried to murder Jews.” On Sunday, Ben-Gvir said Indore should be given “a medal of honor” for shooting Matan. Two coalition parliamentarians — Zvi Sukkot and Tali Gottlieb — visited Indore at the hospital. None of the coalition members condemned the killing of Matan.
Head of the National Unity opposition party Benny Gantz warned on Sunday of the development of "dangerous nationalistic Jewish terror." Gantz accused the government of backing the rioters. "The silence of our national leadership, the lack of backing for the security forces and the heads of the security system — and the fact that members of the government and coalition support those extremists — are a stain that will not be erased on our image, and a danger to our security," said Gantz.
Opposition head Yair Lapid also condemned the alleged murder, saying that "the backing they [suspected settlers] are receiving from the most extreme coalition in the history of the country is tantamount to a diplomatic attack."
IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari said Monday that the settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, was encouraging Palestinians to carry out "terrorist attacks." Speaking to Ynet, Hagari said that amid a recent rise in West Bank Palestinian terrorism, “there has also been an increase in [Jewish] nationalist crime and nationalist terror.
"It’s terrorism, there’s no other way to say it," he added.