Israeli army stops liberal Israelis from staging solidarity rally for Palestinian town


Protesters said Israeli soldiers fired stun grenades and prevented hundreds of Israeli leftist activists from holding a solidarity rally on Friday in a Palestinian town that was set on fire by radical Jewish settlers earlier this week.

Soldiers pushed at least two protesters to the ground, activists said, pressing their knees into their necks and backs before briefly detaining them.

Israeli rights activists said soldiers and border policemen prevented busloads of protesters from entering the occupied West Bank town of Hawara, still scarred from Sunday’s resident-led attack.

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According to Sally Abed from the group Standing Together, soldiers threw at least two protesters to the ground when they tried to arrest them, kicked and handcuffed them. Both were eventually released, he added.

The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Hundreds of residents, some armed with knives and guns, ransacked Hawara on Sunday and set fire to dozens of homes and businesses after two Israeli brothers were shot dead. A Palestinian was killed in a mob attack.

Israeli border police officers prevent hundreds of Israeli left-wing activists from holding a solidarity rally March 3, 2023, in a Palestinian town that was set on fire by radical Jewish settlers on Sunday. (AP Photo/Majdi Muhammad)

On Friday, about 500 people holding solidarity and Palestinian flags – mostly elderly men and women, both Jewish and Arab citizens – disobeyed army orders and got off buses and headed for the highway to Hawara.

Palestinian motorists responded in support. Demonstrators chanted “No to occupation” and “End Jewish terror”. Confronted by a group of police and troops deployed to stop their peaceful demonstration, they shouted, “Where were you when Hawara happened?” – referring to intense provocations that went largely unchecked and went unpunished.

Abed said that in response to the crowd of protesters moving towards Hawara, the Israeli army fired stun grenades and tried to stop them.

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Standing Together said, “It is ridiculous that the army allows settlers to enter Hawara as we speak, but we – Israeli Jews and Arabs who want to show our solidarity – are told there is no entry. No,” Standing Together said. The group said the rally was coordinated with the local council and residents.

Unlike Palestinian cities like Ramallah that are under the control of the Palestinian Authority, Hawara is mostly under Israeli security control. The Israeli military has said it was shocked by the ferocity and scale of the settler mob earlier this week. The Ministry of Defense has sent two suspected perpetrators of the violence to administrative custody.

A city of 7,000 Palestinians surrounded by ideological settlements, Hawara has long been a flashpoint for violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

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Earlier on Friday, a delegation of European diplomats visited Hawara and a nearby village to survey the damage and condemn the destruction.

The uproar has sparked condemnation from around the world, with Finance Minister and resident leader Bezalel Smotrich saying on Wednesday that Hawara “must be wiped out.” Smotrich, whose party wants Israel to formally annex large parts of the West Bank, later backtracked on those comments.

Egypt’s foreign ministry on Friday called Smotrich’s comments a “dangerous and unacceptable incitement to violence”.

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