RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Hundreds of Israel’s extremist settlers gathered near the central West Bank village of An-Nabi Salih in the Ramallah district Saturday, locals told Ma’an, sparking unrest.
Residents said young Palestinian men set fire to used tires at the village entrance fearing settlers might storm the village, while Israeli forces deployed in the area to intervene in case clashes were provoked, locals said.
In Hebron, residents reported being intimidated by dozens of settlers, who set off fireworks near the city’s Ibrahimi Mosque and marched through Palestinian neighborhoods in the southern West Bank city.
Israeli authorities partitioned the mosque in 1994 after Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein shot dead 29 Palestinians and wounded over 100 others during the dawn prayer.
The Israeli Education Minister recently called for a new program to bring Israeli school children to the site, which is also holy for Jews.
Hebron residents said the intensified settler activity at the mosque was a response to the minister’s call, which they feared was an attempt to “Judaize” the area.
Rise in settler violence
A noticeable rise in settler attacks across the West Bank has led to fears of night raids by armed settlers in Palestinian villages.
Analysts have expressed concerns that settlers plan to provoke a reaction from Palestinians which Israeli authorities could use to foil the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to control security in the West Bank.
An Israeli government decision to take down Monday structures in the illegal settlement outpost Havad Gilad near Nablus in the northern West Bank led to the most recent spike in violence perpetrated by settlers against Palestinians.
Following the razing of the outpost buildings, settlers firebombed a Palestinian home, blocked roads, smashed shops and damaged Palestinian cars in line with their “price-tag policy” to make Palestinians pay for perceived anti-settler actions by the Israeli government.
One Havad Gilad resident told AFP settlers may enter Palestinian villages to throw out the residents in protest.
Settlers organized a “day of rage” Thursday, rallying in Israel and the West Bank and threatening further “price tag” attacks.
On Monday, Palestinian Authority settlement affairs official Ghassan Doughlas said a warning had been issued to Palestinians to avoid areas where settlers gather for their own safety.