The death of an Israeli teenager sparks further violence in the West Bank

An Israeli teenager whose disappearance sparked riots by Israeli settlers in the West Bank was found dead on Saturday, Israeli authorities said, threatening to further inflame tensions in Israeli-occupied territories.

Dozens of Israelis and Palestinians were injured during clashes later on Saturday in several locations in the West Bank, the Israeli army said in a statement. Israeli extremists stormed at least two villages in the territory, attempting to burn Palestinian property and clashing with residents, according to Palestinian witnesses.

Binyamin Achimair, 14, had left a West Bank farming settlement to herd sheep on Friday morning but never returned, according to Israeli police. Israeli forces later found his body and the military claimed, without providing evidence, that he had been “murdered in a terrorist attack”.

After Binyamin disappeared on Friday, armed Israeli settlers raided a Palestinian village near Ramallah, setting fire to several buildings and cars, according to Palestinian officials and Yesh Din, an Israeli rights group. According to the village mayor, Amin Abu Aliya, one Palestinian – Jihad Abu Aliya – was killed during the clashes and at least 25 others injured.

Binyamin's death and the possibility of further Israeli retaliation could increase violence in the West Bank, where some 500,000 Israeli settlers live alongside some 2.7 million Palestinians. According to the United Nations, more than 400 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the Hamas-led attack on October 7 sparked Israel's campaign in Gaza.

The Israeli army announced Saturday that it will strengthen its forces in the West Bank with additional companies and police.

According to an Israeli security official and Palestinian witnesses, Israeli mob attacks returned on Saturday in both Al Mughayir and Duma, a nearby Palestinian village. Israeli settlers, some of them armed, entered the villages, the official added, and reportedly opened fire.

In Duma, the attackers “covered the entire village,” some of them armed, said Naser Dawabsheh, a village resident. They set fire to several buildings and cars, raising a cloud of thick smoke above them, he added. Israeli soldiers “did not disperse the settlers, they protected them and fired tear gas at anyone who approached,” he said.

Saturday's clashes in Al Mughayir left at least three Palestinians injured, one seriously, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

“There is no order, there is no security,” said Na'asan Na'asan, 28, a resident of Al Mughayir. “They are shooting at us: why is there no one to protect us?”

A veteran Israeli photojournalist, Shaul Golan, 74, said in an interview that Israeli settlers also captured him and beat him, before destroying his equipment, after he attempted to film them in Al Mughayir. Some of them were masked, while others wore Israeli military uniforms, he added.

“I begged the soldiers there to help me, to save me,” Golan said. “But then I realized they weren't real soldiers: they worked with them.”

The Biden administration has said Israel must do more to crack down on extremist Israeli settler violence and has imposed sanctions on several individuals involved in attacks against Palestinians. Israeli leaders have denounced this move as interference in the country's internal affairs.

As Israeli troops and police officers searched for Binyamin on Friday afternoon, armed Israeli settlers raided Al Mughayir, setting buildings and cars on fire, Abu Aliya said. In the video released by Yesh Din, smoke can be seen coming from some burning cars and buildings.

In a statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced Binyamin's “heinous murder” and vowed that Israel will “settle accounts” with whoever killed him. He did not explicitly mention the settlers' fury, instead telling the Israeli public to “allow the security forces to carry out their work undisturbed” as they investigate the killing.

Yair Lapid, leader of the Israeli parliamentary opposition, also condemned the teenager's murder. But he also denounced settler attacks, saying that “the violent settler riots are a dangerous violation of the law and are hampering the forces operating on the ground.”

The Israeli army confirmed that numerous “violent disturbances” had occurred in the area on Friday during search operations. At one point, “stones were thrown” at Israeli soldiers, prompting them to open fire in response, the Israeli military said. Israeli police and soldiers also removed Israeli settlers who had entered Al Mughayir, the military said.

Israeli soldiers were in the area “even before the settlers arrived,” Na'asan said, but they did not stop them from entering the village and setting fire to buildings and cars. It was not immediately clear how village resident Jihad Abu Aliya was killed.

Human rights groups have long charged that Israeli authorities do not do enough to prevent violent attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians and that perpetrators are rarely arrested. An Israeli police spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on whether any Israelis had been arrested during the incident.

Last February, an attack by Israeli settlers devastated the Palestinian town of Huwara in the northern West Bank. At least one Palestinian was killed and 390 were injured in the uprising, according to Palestinian officials, in which Israelis burned numerous buildings and cars as terrified Palestinians fled burning homes.

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