Two Israeli settlers were shot and killed in the West Bank on Sunday, local settler leader Yossi Dagan said, calling it “an extremely serious terrorist attack.” The shooting sparked revenge attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians, causing at least one death and numerous injuries.
The shooting of the settlers took place in Huwara, south of Nablus in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, just days after a massive Israeli military raid into Nablus in search of wanted militants left at least 11 Palestinians dead.
The settlers killed on Sunday were named as brothers Hillel Menachem Yaniv, 21, and Yagel Yaakov Yaniv, 19, the local settler council said.
“We embrace the family and will be with them as much as necessary,” the Shomron (Samaria) Regional Council said. They were from the settlement of Har Bracha, council leader Yossi Dagan said.
Video from the scene showed that their car had crossed a median, and hit a vehicle going the other direction, suggesting they were shot while driving.
The two Israeli men were taken to a hospital after the attack, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said, but they later died, the Magen David Adom medical agency said. The IDF added that it was pursuing the attacker.
Another local settler leader said he was present when the two were shot.
“The shooting took place right behind me. It looked terrible – the shooting was from point blank range,” said Shai Alon, the head of Beit El council, adding that Israel needed to “go to war against those who wish us harm.”
Hours after the incident, Israelis killed at least one Palestinian man and injured several others with stones or iron bars in and around Huwara, Palestinian medics and the Ministry of Health said Sunday night.
Sameh Hamdallah Mahmoud Aqtash, 37, was shot in the abdomen and killed in the town of Za’tara, between Huwara and the Israeli settlement of Kfar Tapuach, the ministry said.
In Huwara itself, at least one person was stabbed and another assaulted with an iron bar, the Palestinian Red Crescent said. The emergency service also reported its ambulances were attacked, and said Israeli military forces had prevented three ambulances from entering the town.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health said a person had been treated for a minor injury from a metal rod in the face, and another had been treated for a skull fracture from being hit in the head with a stone.
Two Palestinian firefighters said that about 50 settlers had stoned their fire engine, injuring them as they attempted to respond to a fire at a Palestinian house in Huwara, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported. The Red Crescent also said it had dealt with nearly 100 cases of smoke inhalation.
Social media video which CNN geolocated to Huwara appeared to show several dozen Israeli settlers walking down a main street as at least three fires burned by the side of the road. Other photographs and videos circulating on social media appeared to show fires burning in the town.
The Palestinian Authority Presidency accused the settlers of carrying out “terrorist acts… under the protection of the Israeli occupation forces, in Hawara, Burin, Einabus and other areas, which resulted in the injury of more than 100 Palestinians and the burning of shops, homes, cars and other public property.”
Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid accused Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, the leader of the settler-based Religious Zionism party, of being responsible for the violence.
Linking the events to deconfliction talks between Israel and the Palestinians in Jordan earlier in the day, Lapid tweeted: “Smotrich’s militias set out to burn Hawara in order to torpedo the summit in Aqaba of Netanyahu and [Defense Minister Yoav] Gallant. This government is dangerous to Israel’s security.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement asking Israelis not to engage in revenge attacks for the killing of Hillel and Yagel Yaniv earlier in the day.
“I ask – even when the blood is boiling – not to take the law into one’s hands. I ask that the IDF and the security forces be allowed to carry out their work. I remind you that in recent weeks, they have targeted dozens of terrorists and thwarted dozens of attacks,” Netanyahu said.
The IDF are sending reinforcements to the West Bank to “thwart terror attacks and prevent violent riots,” it said Sunday night.
The “riots” – an apparent reference to the settlers carrying out revenge attacks against Palestinians – “are being handled by the IDF, Israeli Fire and Rescue Services, Israeli Border Police and additional security forces,” the IDF said.
On Sunday night, IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi visited the site where the Yaniv brothers were shot, the IDF said, and “ordered the area to be reinforced with additional forces to thwart terror attacks and prevent violent riots, while increasing and expanding the efforts to capture the terrorists.”
No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack on the Israeli brothers, but Lion’s Den had vowed revenge after Wednesday’s raid in Nablus.
Six of those who died there were members of the Palestinian militant group, which emerged in the city last year.
“As big as the pain filling Nablus, the occupation will taste twice the pain,” the group said, referring to Israel. “They will know that the fighters of the honorable groups in Nablus will not take a step back.”
Dagan, the head of the Samaria Regional Council, called after Sunday’s killings for Israel to break off ongoing security talks between Israel and the Palestinians brokered by Jordan, Egypt and the United States, saying: “I demand that the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense and all the ministers return the delegation from the idle talks in Aqaba…. We need to launch an operation against terrorism!”
Following the rare talks on Sunday, Israeli and Palestinian representatives “affirmed their commitment to all previous agreements between them, and to work towards a just and lasting peace,” they said in a joint statement.
Jordanian, Egyptian, and US senior officials attended the summit in Aqaba following an invitation of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
The joint statement said both sides reaffirmed the necessity of committing to de-escalation on the ground and to prevent further violence.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority confirmed their “joint readiness and commitment to immediately work to end unilateral measures for a period of 3-6 months. This includes an Israeli commitment to stop discussion of any new settlement units for 4 months and to stop authorization of any outposts for 6 months,” the statement read.
The five parties agreed to convene again in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, in March.
“Jordan, Egypt and the United States consider these understandings as major progress towards re-establishing and deepening relations between the two sides, and commit to assisting and facilitating as appropriate their implementation,” the statement said.