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Jewish settlers storm the town and pepper spray Israeli soldiers in the West Bank

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The Israeli army said on Thursday that Jewish settlers raided a Palestinian town in the occupied West Bank, threw stones at Palestinian cars and sprayed tear gas at troops trying to disperse the settlers.

The settler attack late Wednesday came days after a similar incident in the same area and as Israeli-Palestinian tensions escalated due to Israeli raids in the West Bank and escalation in Palestinian armed attacks.

Image: Israeli settlers walk with batons as they cross the street during clashes when Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian residents and shops in the occupied West Bank town of Huwara on October 13, 2022.
Israeli settlers march with batons during clashes last week in the occupied West Bank town of Huwara, when Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian residents and shops.Oren Ziv / AFP – Getty Images file

Also Thursday, Palestinian health officials said a 16-year-old Palestinian died after being wounded in clashes with Israeli soldiers late last month. Meanwhile, Palestinians launched a general strike in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in response to the death of a suspected Palestinian aggressor.

The attack took place near Huwara, a Palestinian town near the city of Nablus in the northern West Bank, where a group of disgruntled youths is taking up arms against Israel and the Palestinian leadership is uncomfortable with the close security ties with Israel.

Palestinian militants in the area have opened numerous roadside fires in recent weeks. The area is home to a number of harsh settlements, whose inhabitants often intimidate Palestinians and damage their property.

Critics accuse Israel of turning a blind eye to settler violence against Palestinians and treating Palestinian aggressors or protesters with impunity while being tough on them. Settler violence has also led to clashes with soldiers in the past, which has often led to condemnation by politicians, but has rarely led to a solution to the problem.

Dozens of settlers passed through the town, throwing stones at Palestinian cars, the military said. In addition to the battalion commander, the settlers sprayed another soldier with pepper spray. The military said settlers had pushed two more soldiers at a nearby checkpoint.

Police said the settlers fled the scene by car. They said a 20-year-old suspect had been arrested and more arrests were expected.

Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Aviv Kohavi condemned the violence in a statement.

“This is a very serious incident that embodies shameful and disgraceful criminal behavior that requires rigorous and swift justice.” Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid described the settlers as “dangerous criminals” in a tweet.

The violence comes as tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have escalated in recent months.

More than 120 Palestinians have died in Israeli-Palestinian conflicts in the West Bank and East Jerusalem this year, making 2022 the deadliest year since 2015.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health said that 16-year-old Mohammed Fadi Nouri was shot dead in the stomach by Israeli soldiers near the city of Ramallah last month.

Thursday’s general strike targeted all sectors except vital services, such as hospitals or bakeries.

Some schools were also closed. He was called to mourn the shooting death of Palestinian gunman Uday Tamimi, who killed an Israeli soldier earlier this month. Tamimi was the subject of a more than a week-long manhunt that resulted in him shooting at a security guard at a West Bank settlement on Wednesday.

Image: Palestinian mourners attend the funeral of 16-year-old Mohammed Fadi Nouri, who died from a gunshot wound last month during clashes with Israeli forces near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank's Ramallah on October 20, 2022.
Palestinians attended the funeral of 16-year-old Mohammed Fadi Nouri on Thursday. The young man died from a gunshot wound last month in clashes with Israeli forces near Ramallah.Abbas Momani / AFP – Getty Images

Conflicts have escalated since a series of Palestinian attacks in the spring killed 19 people in Israel and the recent violence. The Israeli military says most of the Palestinians killed were militants. However, stone throwers protesting the attacks and others who were not involved in the clashes were also killed.

In the 1967 Middle East war, Israel captured the West Bank, along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, the land the Palestinians sought for their future state.

About 500,000 Jewish settlers live in 130 settlements in the West Bank.