West Bank violence flares after killing of Israeli teenager

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Violence flared in the occupied West Bank on Saturday as settlers torched cars and buildings in Palestinian villages after the killing of an Israeli teenager in what the Israeli military said was a “terrorist attack”.

Binyamin Achimair, aged 14, went missing on Friday after taking sheep from the settlement outpost of Malachei HaShalom to graze. His disappearance triggered a huge search, as well as a settler attack on the Palestinian village of al-Mughayyir, where buildings and vehicles were set on fire.

Achimair’s body was found on Saturday, and settlers again attacked al-Mughayyir. Palestinian officials said one man was killed and 25 were injured in the violence on Friday. The Palestinian news agency Wafa said six people in the village sustained bullet wounds on Saturday.

The Israeli NGO Yesh Din, which tracks settler violence, said settler attacks had taken place in at least 10 Palestinian villages.

Tensions have been running high in the West Bank — which Palestinians seek as the heart of a future state but which Israel has occupied since 1967 — since the war between Israel and Hamas erupted last year.

In the immediate aftermath of Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel there was a surge in settler violence in the territory. The UN has recorded 727 attacks by settlers on Palestinians since the outbreak of the war.

In response to the violence, several western countries, including the US, UK and France, have imposed financial sanctions and travel restrictions on settlers involved in some of the most extreme violence.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the killing of Achimair a “serious crime” and pledged that Israeli forces would catch those behind it, while also issuing a veiled warning against vigilante attacks. 

“I call on all citizens of Israel to allow the security forces to do their work unhindered, so that we can come to terms with the abominable murderers and their assistants soon,” he said. 

Yoav Gallant, Israel’s defence minister, also called for calm. “I appeal to the public, let the security forces act quickly in the hunt for the terrorists,” he wrote on the social media platform X.

“Acts of revenge will make it difficult for our soldiers in their mission. The law must not be taken into one’s own hands.”

The Israeli military said that confrontations between settlers and Palestinians had taken place in “several” locations on Saturday and that “dozens” of Israelis and Palestinians were injured “to different degrees”.

It added that it would send additional forces to the area, but said on Saturday evening that “as of now, all of the incidents have concluded”.

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