This article was published in partnership with Local Call.
Hundreds of Palestinians took part in the funeral of Ali Hasan Harb in the West Bank village of Iskaka on Wednesday afternoon, after he was stabbed and killed by a settler the day before.
According to eyewitnesses, Harb was stabbed near his heart after settlers attempted to erect a tent on his family’s land, which borders the settlement city of Ariel, while Israeli soldiers and police officers who were present did nothing to stop the attack. Following the killing, an Israeli court placed a gag order on the details of the investigation.
Harb’s relatives said they were summoned to the scene after settlers had arrived there to set up a tent on their land. “We were in the village and were told that settlers had entered the land,” recalled Zaid, one of Harb’s relatives who witnessed the stabbing. “When we arrived, the settlers saw us and walked away. There were four adults and around 10 teenagers. A security guard from Ariel arrived and fired into the air and we drove away.” According to Zaid, the settlers were accompanied by soldiers and police officers. Harb, said eyewitnesses, was standing off to the side.
“One of the older settlers — who was wearing a black shirt, military trousers, and a hat — approached and threw stones at us. He then swung a knife and tried to stab me. I pushed him and then he pounced and stabbed Ali near his heart. The police and army were just a few meters away from us, but they did not do a thing to the stabber.”
“The settlers were scared at first, but when the army and police arrived, they were reassured,” said Amjad, another one of Harb’s relatives who witnessed the incident. “The stabber did not talk to us, he simply began attacking and then ran away with the knife.”
As Harb collapsed and began bleeding on the ground, more relatives rushed to help him. According to Zaid, a settler aimed a weapon at one of the men who tried to help, which delayed the evacuation. After a few minutes, Harb was taken by foot to a private vehicle that transported him to a hospital in the nearby Palestinian city of Salfit, where doctors pronounced him dead.
Zaid and Amjad said that prior to the stabbing there was no violence by the Palestinians toward the settlers.
While the police initially said that they could not identify the attacker, eyewitnesses presented Local Call with a photo from the stabbing that included an image of the attacker. The image showed an adult male who came to the area with the group of 10-15 teenagers and a number of other adults. On Wednesday afternoon, Israeli police arrested a Jewish man on suspicion of being involved in the killing after he arrived at the Ariel police station on his own initiative.
The attack took place just hours after the Nachala settler organization announced it would spend the next three days laying the groundwork for the establishment of over 10 new settlement outposts across the West Bank in the near future, though it is unclear whether the attempt to establish the tent on the Harb family’s land was connected to the initiative.
According to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, soldiers arrived at the scene of a “violent confrontation” between Palestinians and settlers, where they identified a wounded Palestinian. The soldiers suggested the army evacuate him to a hospital in a military ambulance and “provide him with the necessary medical treatment.” According to the unit, the Palestinians refused and evacuated the wounded man themselves, and emphasized that the soldiers were “not present at the scene during the confrontation.”
Israeli human rights group Yesh Din said the army’s official response “contradicts the testimonies of all Palestinians present at the scene” and demanded the army release security camera footage of the scene “in order to arrive at the truth.”
Israeli police refused to respond to a request for comment, citing the gag order that had been placed on the investigation.
A version of this article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.