Settler shoots Palestinian dead as rioters attack his car
About 200 Palestinians participated in a protest-turned-riot, blocking roads and throwing rocks at passing Israeli vehicles when a settler—claiming he felt that his life was in mortal danger—opened fire at the rioters, killing one and injuring a news photographer; wife of the shooter says mob encircled their vehicles and tried to drag them out.
A Palestinian man was killed on Thursday after an Israeli settler opened fire on a group of some 200 Palestinian rioters who were hurling rocks and stones at passing vehicles near Huwara in the West Bank.
The shooter, who was taken for questioning shortly after the incident, said that he felt that his life was in danger and claimed that he did not fire directly at the group of rioters, but rather into the air.
"I saw death staring at me," he later said.
His wife, who was sitting in the passenger seat next to him, claimed that the rioters attempted to drag her husband from his car to lynch him.
Friends of the shooter—a father of eight from the settlement Itamar—said that he was returning from shopping when he came across a Palestinian ambulance that was blocking his path. A man dressed in medical uniform apparently exited the ambulance and started kicking their door.
According to the shooter, a mob then encircled his car and started pelting it with rocks. Fearing for his life, the settler loaded a gun and fired shots in the air. He said that if he had not fired, he would have been lynched.
The Palestinian health services stated that two were wounded during the shooting, which was confirmed by the IDF shortly thereafter. The first victim was identified as Moataz Hussein Taya, 23, from the village of Bita, who was critically wounded and succumbed to his wounds moments later.
The second victim was identified as an AP photographer, Majdi Eshtiya, who suffered moderate wounds after being shot in the arm.
A security video of the incident shows the protest the settler came upon, which was in solidarity with Palestinian security prisoners jailed in Israel.
The video shows the settler's car surrounded by people who are preventing him from moving. The Israeli car is then seen pushing forward, hitting some of the protesters blocking his path, as an ambulance drives onto the road, blocking it. It is at this point that the rioters begin kicking the car and throwing stones at it.
The video does not, however, show the shooting.
The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nikolay Mladenov, condemned the killing of the Palestinians on his Twitter, saying "Those responsible must be investigated and prosecuted."
This roused the anger of Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who called on Mladenov "to apologize for this disgraceful condemnation."
"An Israeli citizen was attacked with rocks and nearly murdered by an incited mob. He was acting in self-defense. Have you checked (what happened) before condemning?" Bennett asked Mladenov.
The Yesha Council also expressed its support of the settler, saying "We back the resident who defended his life and prevented the lynch," adding, "We support the IDF and demand to investigate the Red Crescent organization that blocked the resident's car, as well as to take a hard stance against the stone-throwers."
The IDF arrived shortly after the shooting to prevent more casualties and disperse the riot.
This is the second incident within a day in which an Israeli settler is reported to have shot a Palestinian rioter who threw rocks at his car.
(Translated & edited by Lior Mor)