Settler shoots and kills Palestinian during West Bank demo

An AP photographer was also wounded by the settler, during a protest in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike. Eyewitnesses say that an altercation between demonstrators and settlers escalated into stone-throwing by the former, after which the settler drew his gun and opened fire.

A Palestinian demonstrator gestures while lying on the ground during a protest in solidarity with hunger striking Palestinian prisoners, near Huwwara, West Bank, May 18, 2017. (Ahmad al-Bazz/
A Palestinian demonstrator gestures while lying on the ground during a protest in solidarity with hunger striking Palestinian prisoners, near Huwwara, West Bank, May 18, 2017. (Ahmad al-Bazz/

An Israeli settler shot and killed a Palestinian near Huwwara in the West Bank on Thursday, during a demonstration in solidarity with an ongoing mass hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in Israel. The dead man was named by the Palestinian Ministry of Health as Mutaz Hussien Hilal Bani Shamsa, 23, according to Ma’an News Agency.

The settler also shot and moderately wounded Associated Press photographer Majdi Eshtayya.

An IDF statement said that the protest had drawn around 200 Palestinians, some of whom had been throwing stones at passing Israeli vehicles. Photographs published by Walla show what is purportedly the car belonging to the settler in question, with its windshield heavily damaged. Palestinian media reported the demonstration as a peaceful march.

The alleged shooter is a resident of Itamar settlement, near Nablus, who was detained for questioning following the incident. Other settlers on the scene claimed that he had initially fired into the air, while an associate of the man who was with him at the time described the altercations leading up to the shooting as a “lynch attempt” by Palestinians. Ynet, which interviewed the associate, subsequently applied the “lynch” label to a video of the confrontation — which shows a group of Palestinians kicking a civilian car before they’re dispersed by tear gas and shock grenades fired by Israeli soldiers. Walla also labeled the incident a “lynch attempt.”

However, CCTV footage of the lead-up to the shooting, provided to +972 by Rabbis for Human Rights, shows the settler’s car driving toward a crowd of Palestinians blocking the road, who then surround the vehicle. The car stands still for a while, before darting forward and running over several Palestinians. Other demonstrators then start to throw stones at the car.

Ahmad al-Bazz, an Activestills photographer who was on the scene at the time of the incident, described how “demonstrators blocked the road and were approached by a car with settlers in it. The protesters put a flag on the car, pushed and kicked it. The driver continued on his way, and threatened to run over the demonstrators.

“The soldiers who were standing nearby saw this and did nothing. Things escalated and [protesters] started throwing stones at the car,” al-Bazz continued. Another eyewitness said that the settler “hit a few people with his car, demonstrators started throwing stones, and then he drew his gun and opened fire.”

The month-long hunger strike has seen sustained mass protests across the West Bank, which has been accompanied by an uptick in the number of Palestinians shot and wounded or killed by Israeli security forces. On Friday last week, an Israeli sniper shot dead Saba Abu Ubeid, 23, during a hunger strike solidarity demonstration in Nabi Saleh. Ubeid was the 21st Palestinian to be killed by live fire from Israeli security forces since the beginning of 2017.

Settler violence has also increased sharply in recent weeks. Settlers from the radical Baladim outpost attacked left-wing Israeli activists in the Jordan Valley toward the end of April; a day later, Israeli from the Yitzhar settlement — also known for its extremism — attacked Palestinians in Huwwara and Urif. On Tuesday, a Palestinian man was hospitalized after settlers threw stones at him. On Wednesday, an Israeli settler shot and wounded a Palestinian man near Silwad in the northern West Bank, claiming the latter had been throwing stones at him.