Israel has sent hundreds more troops to the occupied West Bank, a day after a Palestinian gunman killed two Israelis and settlers rampaged through a Palestinian town, torching homes and vehicles in the worst such violence in decades.
The responses to the rampage laid bare some rifts in Israel’s new right-wing government, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appealing for calm while a member of his ruling coalition praised the rampage as a deterrent against Palestinian attacks.
The events also underlined the limitations of the traditional US approach to the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Washington has been trying to prevent escalation while staying away from the politically costly task of pushing for a resolution of the core disputes.
Sunday’s events began when a Palestinian gunman shot and killed brothers Hillel and Yagel Yaniv, aged 21 and 19, from the Jewish settlement of Har Bracha, in an ambush in the Palestinian town of Hawara in the northern West Bank. The gunman fled after the killings and has not been caught.
Following the shooting, groups of settlers rampaged along the main thoroughfare in Hawara, which is used by both Palestinians and Israeli settlers. In one video, a crowd of settlers stood in prayer as they stared at a building in flames.
Later on Sunday, a 37-year-old Palestinian was shot and killed by Israeli fire, two Palestinians were shot and wounded and another was beaten with an iron bar, Palestinian health officials said.
On Monday morning, the Hawara thoroughfare was lined with rows of burned-out cars and smoke-blackened buildings. Normally bustling shops remained shuttered. Palestinian media said some 30 homes and cars were torched.
At the scene of the shooting, defence minister Yoav Galant told reporters that Israel “cannot allow a situation in which citizens take the law into their hands”, but stopped short of outright condemning the violence.
Labour Party leader Merav Michaeli called the rampage “a pogrom by armed militias” of West Bank settlers.
“I ask everyone to heed the law and especially to trust in the army and security forces,” she said.
The Yaniv brothers were to be laid to rest in Jerusalem on Monday.
Lt Col Richard Hecht, an Israeli military spokesman, described the situation as “a tense quiet”.
The army has not caught the Palestinian gunman. Israeli police spokesman Dean Elsdunne said eight Israelis were detained in connection with Sunday’s rioting, and that six had already been released.
Israeli troops also began removing settlers from a previously evacuated settlement outpost near the West Bank city of Nablus. Several settlers had camped there following Sunday’s deadly shooting, Israel’s public broadcaster Kan reported.
While Mr Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog urged settlers not to engage in vigilante actions, other members of the ruling coalition fanned the flames.
Tzvika Foghel, a legislator from the ultra-nationalist Jewish Power party, said the rampage would help deter Palestinian attacks.
“I see the result in a very good light,” he told Army Radio when asked about what the interviewer referred to as a pogrom.
Public security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, the leader of the Jewish Power party, has yet to make any official statement.
The violence erupted shortly after the Jordanian government hosted talks at the Red Sea resort of Aqaba aimed at de-escalating tensions ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The Palestinians claim the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip — areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war — for a future state.
So far this year, 62 Palestinians, about half of them affiliated with armed groups, have been killed by Israeli troops and civilians. In the same period, 14 Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks.
Last year was the deadliest for the Palestinians in the West Bank and east Jerusalem since 2004, according to figures by the Israeli rights group B’Tselem.
Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed in those areas, Some 30 people on the Israeli side were killed in Palestinian attacks.
The West Bank is home to a number of hard-line settlements – several of them in the immediate vicinity of Hawara – whose residents frequently vandalise Palestinians land and property.