The Israeli military reported that two of its soldiers were injured in a drive-by shooting in the town of Huwara, located in the occupied West Bank. The Palestinian armed group, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP), claimed responsibility for the attack. This is the third shooting reported within a month in Huwara, which has been a focus of Israeli military raids and settler rampages.
Escalating Tensions during the Holy Month
The incident raised concerns of escalating violence during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, which partly coincides with the Jewish holiday of Passover, a time when violence has previously been known to break out. Any hope for a calm beginning to Ramadan was quickly dashed by the attack, according to Al Jazeera’s Natasha Ghoneim, reporting from Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.
Following the shooting, Israeli forces closed the main thoroughfare leading into Huwara, and checkpoints around the town prevented people from moving through. Clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli army ensued as it entered Huwara. Dozens of settlers protested at the entrance of the town following the attack.
Last week, Israeli and Palestinian officials made commitments to de-escalate violence during Ramadan at a meeting in Egypt. Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich emphasized that Israel must not let attacks from the town become routine, while drawing criticism for his recent comments about the Palestinians, and earlier about Huwara stating that it should be “wiped out.”
Israeli Settler-Related Violence Reaches New High
Settler-related violence targeting Palestinians has reached its highest levels since 2006, according to the United Nations. A daily average of three violent incidents per day has been recorded in 2023, compared with two incidents per day in 2022, and one incident per day in 2021. Over the past year, Israeli forces have made thousands of arrests in the West Bank and killed more than 250 Palestinians, including fighters and civilians. More than 40 Israelis and three Ukrainians have died in Palestinian attacks.
Response to Mosque Incident
On Saturday night, Israeli police entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to remove some worshippers who remained in the mosque after night prayers, claiming they were planning to “violate public order” and disrupt early morning prayers and visits by Israelis and tourists. Muslim worshippers often spend the night in mosques, praying and reading the Quran. Palestinian or Muslim officials have yet to respond to Saturday night’s removals, but have previously condemned Israeli forces entering the shrine.