image Photo: Reuters, Flash90

Settler reprisal for murders of 2 Israelis

Tensions have once again boiled over in the West Bank after the murder of two Israeli brothers by a Palestinian terrorist sparked a retaliatory rampage by a radical group of young Israeli settlers.

By Erin Viner

Hillel and Yagel Yaniv, 22 and 20 respectively, were killed yesterday afternoon when a Palestinian gunman shot them at point blank range as they drove through the flashpoint Palestinian town of Huwara, north of Ramallah.

A manhunt has been launched for the killer, who fled the scene. Two extra battalions have been deployed to the area to thwart fresh attacks.

West Bank Palestinians were photographed celebrating the murders of the young Israelis by handing out sweets.

The two victims were laid to rest today at the Mount Herzl National Cemetery in Jerusalem. The two were residents of Har Bracha, near Nablus; and students of the Hesder yeshiva (religious seminary) program that combines military service with religious studies.

The deaths bring the number of people murdered by Palestinian terrorists in Israel so far this year to 13.

Hours later just after nightfall, hundreds of settlers descended onto Huwara and neighboring Arab villages with torches while chanting, “Revenge.” IDF and Border Police forces were deployed to disperse the rioters, who set fire to dozens of vehicles, commercial and private properties.

The IDF said Israeli troops were not involved in the shooting of the Palestinian man who died of gunshot wounds during riots in the town of Za’tara, south of Huwara. Four Palestinians sustained serious injuries, including two who were shot, one who was stabbed and a fourth who was beaten with an iron bar.

Reacting to the deadly events, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that the terrorist who killed the Yaniv brothers would be captured. He went on to appeal for an end to vigilante actions, saying, “I ask – even when the blood is boiling – not to take the law into one’s hands. I ask that the IDF and the security forces be allowed to carry out their work. I remind you that in recent weeks, they have targeted dozens of terrorists and thwarted dozens of attacks. Let the IDF complete its pursuit and do not take the law into your hands; together we will defeat terrorism.”

During a visit to Huwara today, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant expressed the deep sorrow for the heinous act of terror. “It was a cruel attack. It is heartbreaking to think of the immense pain of the family that lost both its sons- Hallel and Yagel. It is a terrible thing,” he said.

While stressing that, “We will not enable terror against Israelis and will act in every way necessary,” General Gallant also rejected illegal counteractivity. “It is neither legitimate nor possible to operate individually. We cannot allow a situation in which citizens take the law into their hands. I call on everyone to follow law and order and to trust the IDF  and security forces everywhere, across the country. Trust the IDF – you have who to trust – we are doing the work necessary.”

Saying, “we expect difficult days ahead of us,” Jerusalem’s top defense official announced that the IDF,  Israeli Security Agency (ISA, Shin Bet) and Border Police have been ordered to “ensure readiness to face all threats, reinforce troops and activities on the ground, and most importantly, reach and apprehend the terrorists. We will not tolerate terrorism against Israelis, and we will operate in every way necessary.”

President Isaac Herzog issued a similar statement, emphasizing that, “Taking the law into one’s own hands, rioting, and committing violence against innocents—this is not our way, and I express my forceful condemnation. We must allow the IDF, police, and security forces to apprehend the despicable terrorist and restore order immediately.”