Ex-aide of Israel far-right MP held over Palestinian’s murder: media

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A former aide of a lawmaker from Israel’s hard-right governing coalition was among two settlers arrested Saturday over the killing of a 19-year-old Palestinian in the occupied West Bank, Israeli media reported.

Qusai Jamal Maatan was shot dead in Burqah, east of Ramallah, on Friday as armed settlers clashed with villagers.

The UN has warned of a dramatic spike in such cases since the most right-wing government in Israel’s history took power at the end of last year.

Israeli media reported that the main suspect in the deadly shooting had sustained injuries in the clashes and been admitted to hospital.

The second suspect had acted as spokesman to a member of parliament from the far-right Jewish Power party, whose leader Itamar Ben-Gvir is public security minister in the coalition government, the reports said.

Police said a remand hearing was to be held in Jerusalem later Saturday to extend the custody of the two suspects.

Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh called on the international community to blacklist Jewish Power as a terrorist organization in a post on social media.

“Yesterday, a member of his (Ben-Gvir’s) party shot dead a Palestinian citizen in the village of Burqah. It should be included in international terrorism blacklists,” Sheikh said, noting the party leader’s own history of inflammatory remarks against Palestinians.

Ben-Gvir was charged more than 50 times in his youth with incitement to violence or hate speech and was convicted in 2007 of supporting a terrorist group and inciting racism.

At Saturday’s funeral, Palestinian mourners carried Maatan’s body through the streets wrapped in a black and white keffiyeh headscarf and a Palestinian flag, an AFP journalist reported.

In a statement released late Friday, Palestinian militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, called for revenge for Maatan’s murder at the hands of a “settler gang”.

A Palestinian gunman killed an Israeli municipal officer in commercial hub Tel Aviv on Saturday, before being fatally shot by another officer, authorities said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

A Hamas spokesman called the attack “a response to the crimes of the occupation and settlers against our people”.

Since early last year, the West Bank has seen a string of attacks by Palestinians on Israeli targets, as well as violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinian communities and regular raids by Israeli forces who say they are pursuing militants.

Violence this year linked to the conflict has killed at least 208 Palestinians, 28 Israelis, one Ukrainian and one Italian, according to an AFP tally compiled from official sources on both sides.

They include, on the Palestinian side, combatants as well as civilians and, on the Israeli side, three members of the Arab minority.

  • Settler violence –

In a statement on Friday’s shooting, the Israeli army cited Palestinian reports and witnesses as saying that both sides had thrown stones at each other before the Israeli civilians had opened fire.

“As a result of the confrontation, a Palestinian was killed, four others were injured, and a Palestinian vehicle was found burned. Several Israeli civilians were injured from rocks hurled at them,” it said on Saturday, adding security forces arrived after the shooting.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since the Six-Day War of 1967.

Excluding annexed east Jerusalem, the territory is home to nearly three million Palestinians and around 490,000 Israelis who live in settlements considered illegal under international law.

The last major case of Israeli settler violence against Palestinians occurred in June.

Revenge attacks on the West Bank village of Turmus Ayya and others followed the killing of four Israelis by Palestinian gunmen, which militant group Hamas said was in response to an Israeli army raid on Jenin refugee camp which killed six Palestinians.

The UN humanitarian agency OCHA said on Friday it had recorded 591 settler-related “incidents” in the West Bank in the first six months of 2023 resulting in Palestinian casualties, property damage, or both.

“That’s an average of 99 incidents every month, and a 39-percent-increase compared with the monthly average of the whole of 2022, which is 71,” spokesman Jens Laerke said.

©️ Agence France-Presse

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