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Israel/OPT: settler violence in Huwara is 'ugly reality' of Israeli apartheid

Burnt-out cars in Huwara after the settler attacks © AFP via Getty Images

Six out of eight settlers arrested already released, part of long pattern of settlers escaping justice for violence against Palestinians 

Earlier this week Israeli minister Bezalel Smotrich said village of Huwara should be ‘wiped out’ by Israeli state

‘The UK should have broken its silence over state-backed settler violence in Huwara much earlier than it did’ - Kristyan Benedict 

Following the Israeli authorities’ release of six Israeli settlers suspected of involvement in Sunday’s widespread attacks against Palestinians in Nablus Governorate, Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director, said:  


“Under Israel’s apartheid system, impunity reigns. 

“Despite the intensity and scale of Sunday’s attacks, which resulted in the killing of one Palestinian and the wounding of nearly 400 more, and despite a rare show of international condemnation of settler violence, Israeli police have released six suspects who were arrested in connection with the attacks. 

“The Israeli authorities have long enabled and incited settler attacks against Palestinians, and in some cases soldiers have directly participated.  


“State-backed settler violence is endemic in the occupied West Bank. 

“Towns and villages like Huwara, which was the epicentre of Sunday’s attacks, are frequently targeted as they are surrounded by illegal settlements. 

“For example, in October 2022, settlers broke into a school in Huwara where they smashed windows and beat teachers and pupils; less than two weeks later a café was set on fire and groups of settlers assaulted Palestinian residents with pipes and rocks. 

“Amnesty International reiterates its call on Israeli authorities to remove all settlements, which are war crimes under international law, and to dismantle its system of apartheid against Palestinians. 

“Apartheid is a crime against humanity and violence against civilians will continue for as long as it is in place.”

State-backed violence 

On the night of Sunday 26 February, hundreds of state-backed Israeli settlers carried out a spree of attacks against Palestinians in Nablus Governorate in the occupied West Bank, including in the town of Huwara and in nearby villages Burin, Assira al-Qibliya, Beit Furik, Za’tara, and Beita. Settlers torched dozens of Palestinian cars, homes and orchards and physically assaulted Palestinians, including with metal bars and rocks. Earlier that day, two Israeli settlers - both civilians - had been unlawfully killed in a shooting attack near Huwara.    

Research by the Israeli organisation Yesh Din found that 93% of all investigations into settler attacks against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank were closed without an indictment in the period between 2005 and 2022. Yesh Din also found that more than 80% of Palestinians' complaints to Israeli police were not investigated at all.

On Wednesday, in a stark example of the link between state and settler violence, Israel’s finance minister Bezalel Smotrich said that Huwara should be “wiped out” by the Israeli state. The UN recorded 621 attacks against Palestinians by Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank in 2022.     

Limited UK government response

Up until earlier today - when the UK issued a joint statement along with France, Germany, Italy and several other countries - there had been little or no response to Sunday’s violence by the UK government. Amnesty has repeatedly called on the UK to be more forthright in condemning Israeli settler violence, the illegal settlements themselves and Israel’s wider apparatus of apartheid against Palestinians.

Kristyan Benedict, Amnesty International UK's Crisis Response Manager, said:

"The UK should have broken its silence over state-backed settler violence in Huwara much earlier than it did, including with an unequivocal denunciation of Bezalel Smotrich's utterly appalling remarks.


"Palestinians are already suffering under decades of discrimination and occupation at the hands of the Israeli authorities, and the Huwara rampage is the ugly reality of Israeli apartheid.


"With the current Israeli government lurching toward ever-more violent and unlawful ends, it's essential that the UK starts speaking out in support of justice and human rights to help prevent this slide into further chaos and human rights abuse.


"The UK should call a spade a spade and acknowledge that Israel is committing the crime of apartheid against Palestinians, with Huwara just one more chilling example of this.

“One concrete thing the UK should do is ban the trade in goods from Israel’s settlements - these are the tainted products of occupation and form part of an illicit economy which fuels state-backed settler violence.”

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