US condemns attack by West Bank settlers on Palestinian villagers

Five people, two minors among them, have been detained by Israeli police after an attack by Jewish settlers on a Palestinian village in the West Bank.

The assault, the latest in what human rights groups say is a constant pattern of aggressive acts by settlers in the Masafer Yatta area southeast of Hebron, has drawn condemnation from the United States and the European Union, as well as Israel’s foreign minister, Yair Lapid.

Mohammed Hussein Hamamdeh, from the village of Al Mufaqarah, told CNN the incident began when dozens of settlers from the nearby settler outpost of Avigail descended on the village on Tuesday afternoon, throwing rocks and attacking villagers, livestock and property.

Hamamdeh’s four-year old grandson was hit by a rock in the attack and was taken to an Israeli hospital to be treated for head injuries, he said.

Video distributed by Israeli human rights group B’Tselem — which used the word pogrom to describe the events — showed masked men rampaging through the small farming community attacking cars and buildings.

It also showed Israeli soldiers apparently failing to intervene, and in one case, throwing things at a person filming the incident.

CNN has approached the Israeli army for comment.

Lapid condemned the settlers’ actions, calling it terror.

“This isn’t the Israeli way and it isn’t the Jewish way. This is a violent and dangerous fringe and we have a responsibility to bring them to justice,” he tweeted.

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Lapid’s statement cleared the way for the US State Department to follow suit with condemnation of its own.

“The U.S. government strongly condemns the acts of settler violence that took place against Palestinians in villages near Hebron in the West Bank on September 28. We appreciate the Foreign Minister and other officials’ strong and unequivocal condemnations of this violence,” a US Embassy spokesperson said.

The European Union added its condemnation and said the perpetrators needed to be prosecuted.

According to Israeli human rights group, Breaking the Silence, while incidents like the one on Tuesday represent one of the worst acts of settler violence in the area for years, other types of intimidation against local Palestinians, like stealing goats and sheep, polluting water cisterns, and attacking children on their way to school, are an almost daily occurrence.

Mohammed Hamamdeh told CNN he remained defiant.

“They simply want us all off our lands, but they will only see this in their dreams. They think that if they break our properties and our houses and if they beat us that they will break our resistance and our dignity. But we are here, and we are staying here until the last drop of blood.”

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