On Sunday, February 26, 2023, Jewish settlers incited a pogrom in Huwara, a town south of Nablus in the occupied territories. It was not a singular event. Violent actions of rioting settlers, and the complete disregard for the crimes by the military and police forces, are happening all the time. Yet, the Huwara pogrom was the largest and cruelest event so far.
On October 13, 2022, settlers held a demonstration at the Yitzhar settlement junction to protest the security situation. During the protest, the demonstrators received reports that Palestinians had thrown stones at Israeli vehicles on the road to Yitzhar that passes through the main square of Hawara. Demonstrators, some of them masked and armed with guns or cold weapons, rushed to Huwara and attacked Palestinians. The settlers attacked shops, smashed car windows, threw stones, and sprayed pepper gas at Palestinians. No one was arrested.
On Saturday, February 25, 2023, Settlers carried out many violent acts against Palestinians in the occupied territories. The prohibition on traveling on Saturdays (Shabbat), regularly observed by the religious settlers, does not apply when it comes to violent acts against Palestinians. In Al-Auja, settlers attacked shepherds in the pastureland, in Silwad they destroyed property, in Burin they set cars on fires, in Salfit a landowner was brutally attacked. No one was arrested.
On Sunday, February 26, 2023, a Palestinian carried out a shooting attack in Huwara, killing two brothers, Hillel and Yagel Yaniv.
The following night, the largest and most violent settlers' pogrom was carried out in Huwara. Four hundred settlers brutally rioted, attacking residents and property.
Eight houses were burned down with the residents and their children inside. Some 30 people were evacuated from burning houses, while residents of other houses were not.
Thirty-five houses were attacked with stones, windows were shattered, and property was damaged.
250 cars burned down and 120 people were injured, one with a severe head injury.
Tires were burned and animals were killed.
Earlier that afternoon, the military set up roadblocks on the way to Huwara, in response to notices issued by settlers declaring their intent to revenge the killing of Hillel and Yagel Yaniv. Yet, military forces allowed the settlers to cross the checkpoints, while preventing Huwara residents, including men returning from work, to cross and reach the women and children that were being attacked at their homes. The soldiers aimed their weapons at the Palestinians and fired teargas in large quantities. Soldiers and policemen prevented Palestinian fire trucks and ambulances from reaching the attacked area and providing help.
Rioting settlers also attacked Salfit, Burin and Za'atara, villages near the town of Huwara. In Za'atara, Sameh Aktash was shot dead in the abdomen. To this day, it has not been clarified whether he was shot by a settler or a soldier. Military and police vehicles were present at the deadly shooting of Aktash; they offered no protection to the attacked Palestinian residents, but accompanied the assailants.
The family of the deceased requested a permit to travel to the nearby city of Ariel in order to file a complaint at the police station about the shooting. Their permit was not given, and investigators did not come to the scene of the shooting for collecting evidence and taking testimonies. Following several attempts, they were granted a permit to enter Ariel, but the police vehicle that was supposed to drive them a few meters into the station (the only way they can enter Ariel) did not arrive. The family's lawyers were also unable to file the complaint.
In the town of Huwara, videos were taken showing settlers soaking cloth in fuel and setting houses on fire. Soldiers and policemen present in the scene, in or outside their vehicles, did not act in any way to prevent the pogrom.
On Friday, a few days after the pogrom, 500 Israeli activists drove to Huwara by buses to support and sympathize with the Palestinian residents. The military prevented the buses from passing through, and when the activists began marching towards the town, tear gas was fired at them.
While the pogrom in Huwara was the most violent riot so far, similar incidents take place daily, and no arrests are made. The number of violent activities on Shabbat increase regularly. The Israeli media widely reports on Palestinian attacks against Jews, but rarely reports on settlers' acts of terrorism.
Two weeks after the attack, another shooting attack was carried out in Huwara. One man was wounded. This time, a large military force arrived. The residents of Huwara were confined to their homes with the military surrounding them, while the settlers could move freely but were prevented access to the town. On the day after the attack the shops in Huwara were ordered to shut down. Were these actions taken in defense of the residents or as a cruel collective punishment?