The West Bank was under a two-pronged attack last week.
The first was carried out by the Israeli state’s army in a massive military invasion of Nablus that killed 11 Palestinians and injured over 100. The second was carried out by its nominally civilian wing — gangs of colonial settlers that went on a rampage last night in response to a resistance attack that killed two Israeli settlers in Huwwara, just south of Nablus.
The raid on Nablus was one of the bloodiest in recent months, aiming to assassinate wanted resistance fighters from the Lions’ Den, Muhammad Juneidi and Hussam Isleem. Israeli special forces killed them and their comrade, Walid Dakhil, a cousin of one of the co-founders of the group. Four other fighters from armed resistance groups around Nablus were also killed in the fighting, in addition to four bystanders in the city (three elderly men and a teenage boy).
Nablus was in mourning, and the Lions’ Den put out a call asking the people to show their support at midnight, February 23:
“Do not despair and fall into sorrow, we need you all, as you have accustomed us…to take to the streets if you can, to come out in every major square, in every city in the West Bank, Jerusalem, the beloved [Gaza] Strip, and in every refugee camp in the homeland, to hear those who would pledge loyalty to the blood that has been spilled.”
Everyone responded to the call of the Lions’ Den. From Ramallah to Hebron, to Nablus and Jenin, to Bethlehem and its camps and Tulkarm and Jericho, people were out in the thousands at midnight, in a show of mass support unknown to any Palestinian political faction.
Neither Fatah nor any other faction has been able to muster this kind of spontaneous mass support since the First Intifada. Political legitimacy, it has become clear, is not to be found in summit halls and security deals, but rather sprouts from the barrel of a rifle when pointed at the colonizer.
In other words, the Lions’ Den has captured the imagination of Palestinians in a way that the political “leadership” has failed to do for decades. What’s more, it has long since stopped trying.
Yet it recognizes its increasingly tenuous hold over the West Bank cantons that it calls a state, pushing it to attend a meeting mediated by Jordan with top Israeli officials in Aqaba on Sunday, February 27. Billed as aiming “to bring an end to the bloodshed,” according to Fatah, the Aqaba Summit was held with the express purpose of calming the brewing storm of Palestinian resistance.
And on the same day as the Summit, an unidentified Palestinian gunman carried out a resistance attack against a settler vehicle in the Palestinian town of Huwwara, south of Nablus. Two settlers were killed, and with them the stillborn Summit at Aqaba.
Palestinians saw the attack as retribution for the invasion of Nablus, much like Khairi Alqam’s Neve Yaacov shooting, which was regarded as retribution for the massacre in Jenin several weeks ago.
According to Reuters, one of the settlers killed in Huwwara was in the Israeli military, and both settlers were reportedly from the illegal Israeli settlement of Har Bracha, 8km away from the site where they were killed. Har Bracha is one of many notoriously violent Israeli settlements in the Nablus area, from which Israeli settlers routinely launch attacks on Palestinians.
And that is precisely what the settlers did following yesterday’s shooting in Huwwara.
The settler riot has been widely described as a “pogrom,” and with good reason. The rabid settler gangs rampaged through Huwwara and many other towns throughout the West Bank, completely burning down 35 Palestinian homes, damaging 40 others, and killing a Palestinian in Zaatara, 37-year-old Sameh Aqtash.
All the while, the Israeli army accompanied the settlers as they were out for blood, ensuring their safety and freedom to lynch and burn as they pleased. Israeli forces also imposed a closure on the Nablus area, as Wafa News Agency reported closures at the checkpoints of Huwara, Awarta, al-Muraba’a road, Za’tara, and entrances to Beita. On Monday, February 27, Wafa reported that an Israeli settler attempted to run over a group of journalists covering the Huwwara news.
Far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who is now in charge of the Civil Administration in the West Bank, reportedly liked a tweet from the Samaria Regional Council Deputy Chief that called for the village of Huwara to “be erased” (see tweet by Edo Konrad of 972), while his political bedfellow and Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, made a visit to the illegal settler outpost of Evyatar on Monday as it was being evicted, vowing to “crush our enemies” and declaring that the settlers are in a state of war that “is not going to end in one day.”
In that, Ben-Gvir is correct. The Zionist forever war against the Palestinians is as old as Zionism itself, and so is Palestinian resistance.
And as we write these words, reports stream in of the death of an Israeli settler in another operation in Jericho.
The Mondoweiss Palestine Bureau are the Mondoweiss staff members based in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.