Photo Credit: TPS
Funeral of the Yaniv brothers at har Herzl. Feb. 27, 2023

In the wake of the deadly attack near Hawara on Sunday – during which two Israelis were shot and killed at point-blank range – settlers went on a rampage that resulted in harm to Palestinians and to their property. But what’s more, they have exacerbated the situation to the point where things can boil over.

It’s not surprising that the terrorist attack struck that particular area. Nablus has in recent months become a dangerous hotbed of terrorism, second only to Jenin’s refugee camp. The Lion’s Den terrorist group that had been operating in the Nablus Qasba attracted a lot of media and military attention and was a source of constant headaches for the IDF and the Shin Bet security agency. In late February, a counterterrorism operation to arrest two of the group’s members turned into a massive confrontation that resulted in 11 Palestinian deaths. Terrorist groups were quick to warn that they would exact revenge and perhaps the Sunday attack was part of that.


Video: Reuters / Israeli settlers attack Palestinian village, setting fire to properties

Hawara has long been Israel’s Achilles’ heel in that area because it sits on the path to the Jewish settlements on the nearby Samaria hilltops. Over the past year, it has been a constant source of violent clashes, including terrorist activity. But what happened there on Sunday was rare by any measure: Dozens of armed settlers arrived at the village and deliberately targeted Palestinians and their property. More than 10 homes and dozens of cars were torched, and in some cases, the IDF had to intervene to save Palestinian lives. While the terrorist attack took place without warning and the IDF and the Shin Bet could not do much to stop it, the revenge of the Jewish settlers was written on the wall well in advance. We must ask why the IDF and the local police failed to beef up security near the village to prevent the ensuing clashes.

This is a clear lapse that has combustible potential more than all other events that have taken place over the past year in that area. If the two sides’ leaders don’t rise up to the plate without delay to calm things down, Hawara could become the spark that sets the entire Palestinian theater ablaze in Judea and Samaria, and perhaps even beyond. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for calm but the settler leadership – both political and religious figures – must issue a clear and forceful statement to the same effect. They have yet to do so.

To prevent an escalation during the Holy Month of Ramadan, Jordan hosted a summit between Israeli, Palestinian, Egyptian, and US officials. But reality crept in on the summit and it turns out that the tempers have flared well before the holiday season.

There was a good atmosphere at the gathering and a follow-up meeting has already been set (this time in Egypt). But in order to truly calm things, much more is needed, especially when there are so many other potential disruptors: from Hamas in Gaza to the ayatollah in Tehran and the provocateurs on social media, all of whom could try to make things go haywire, especially on Temple Mount. The main challenge is to have the Palestinian security forces resume their collaboration with the IDF and have them exert their control in northern Samaria. Their inaction there is what made it possible for the terrorists to make Jenin and Nablus their base over the past 18 months, prompting Israel to take more frequent action in that theater and with larger forces.

It remains to be seen if the Palestinian forces have what it takes to take effective action in northern Samaria. For the time being, Israel will have to act whenever there is actionable intelligence, and considering the current level of violence, which was on full display in Sunday’s attack and following riots, we are heading into a very bloody period.

{Written by Yoav Limor and reposted from IsraelHayom}



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