Senior Biden administration officials expressed their concern Saturday night as tensions flared again on Saturday between dozens of settlers and Palestinians near the West Bank village of Umm Safa, north of Ramallah, as causing injuries and extensive property damage.
"There is much anger in the United States towards Israel for not stopping such incidents. Justice must be served with the perpetrators in the right way, and children should not be allowed to take the law into their own hands," the sources said.
"This is not the Israel we know, nor the values we expect from them. Settler violence is now in focus, and it must be stopped. It is unacceptable for your backyard to constantly be on fire. No one wants this kind of violence."
The officials also commended a joint statement by IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi, Shin Bet Ronen Bar and Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai against settler violence. "This is an extremely exceptional and significant statement," they said.
Clashes erupted in Umm Safa Saturday afternoon. IDF forces arrived at the scene, and one soldier sustained minor injuries from a stone. Shortly thereafter, several settlers entered the village and set fire to at least two homes. Additionally, they torched two vehicles and a truck belonging to Palestinians, according to Palestinian reports.
Subsequent clashes between the two sides took place along the nearby Route 60, during which several Palestinians sustained minor injuries. IDF forces came under stone-throwing attacks by Palestinians and responded with crowd control measures. An army vehicle was also set on fire. At the same time, all settlers were driven out of the Palestinian territory.
According to Palestinian claims, ten homes and seven vehicles were torched during the rampage in the village. Testimonies from soldiers suggest that some of the unruly settlers arrived at the scene in vehicles, despite it being the Sabbath.
The IDF reported that an Israeli civilian was detained by the forces and handed over to the police for further processing. "The IDF will continue to act resolutely to halt all acts of violence and vandalism," stated an IDF spokesperson, adding that they condemn "such acts of nationalist criminality."
Opposition leader Yair Lapid took to Twitter to condemn the violence. "Settler violence crosses all boundaries. Setting homes and vehicles of innocent people on fire is inhumane and certainly not Jewish. Prime Minister Netanyahu must condemn this disgrace and address it firmly. It is a moral travesty and a security threat," he wrote.
German Ambassador to Israel Steffen Seibert also denounced the happenings in the West Bank. “Shocked by another outbreak of settler violence in #UmmSafa. Recent terror attacks cannot serve as an excuse for this. According to international law it is Israel’s responsibility to safeguard life & security of all inhabitants of the occupied territories.” Seibert tagged the IDF and Israel Police in the post.
In response to the German envoy’s tweet, IDF's International Spokesperson Lt. Col. Richard Hecht labeled the events in Umm Safa as "acts of terror."
“Ambassador. Shameful acts on the Sabbath. This is not who we are. These are acts of terror performed by Criminals," Hecht tweeted. "We are doing what we can. One of the Perpetrators has been handed over to the Police."
In light of the violence in Umm Safa, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spoke to his Israeli counterpart Tzachi Hangebi and expressed "deep concern over the recent attacks by extremist settlers against Palestinian civilians and the destruction of their property in the West Bank." Sullivan rei
In a White House statement, it was noted that Sullivan conveyed sincere condolences to the people of Israel after the Hamas terrorist attack near the settlement of Eli that left four Israelis dead earlier this week, and stressed the unwavering support of the U.S. government for Israel's security, as well as Israel's right to defend its people against Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations.
Sullivan called for further steps to restore calm and reduce tensions, urging "all sides to refrain from unilateral actions, including settlement activities, which further exacerbate the situation."
He conveyed the hope that both sides would uphold the commitments made during recent summits in Jordan and Egypt. Similar sentiments were echoed by Hangebi during his conversation with Barbara Leaf, the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs.
First published: 19:41, 06.24.23