During a security briefing on Monday, an Israeli military official said Israel Defense Forces is treating the revenge riots in Huwara by Israeli settlers as a “terror attack.”
The violent riots were in response to the shooting and killing of two Israeli brothers the day before. The brothers, Hillel Menachem Yaniv, 21, and Yigal Yaakov Yaniv, 19, were driving through the town of Huwara when an attacker shot them point-blank before running away.
The two men were from the settlement of Har Bracha (“Hill of Blessing,” named after the blessings of Joshua 8:31-36).
Hundreds of Israeli settlers responded to their murders by attacking Huwara, setting alight 35 houses and shops, 25 privately-owned vehicles and two junkyards.
Several of the houses that were targeted belonged to the extended Aqtash family, who gathered to fight against the rioters. During the clashes, 37-year-old Sameh Aqtash was killed. One cousin attributed the death to a chaotic confrontation with IDF soldiers who made an attempt to separate the sides, however, the IDF said Aqtash was not killed by soldiers. The cause of his death remains unknown.
On Monday, several officials from Israel’s security establishment blamed the IDF for the riots.
“There were calls on social media to carry out the acts. It was known, there is no surprise here,” one of the officials told Israel’s N12 news. “This is a lack of preparation that prevented the takeover by hundreds of settlers who began to riot.”
Another official said the fact that only eight settlers were arrested following the several-hours-long attack, as well as the release of six, was proof the IDF was not treating the situation appropriately.
One IDF official speaking to N12 anonymously said, “I am responsible for the security of Israelis and Palestinians. I failed on both.”
Another security official leveled blame at Israeli government ministers – National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich – saying they provided “moral support to the rioters.”
While Smotrich later spoke out against the attacks and called on citizens not to “take the law into their own hands,” his social media account previously “liked” a since-deleted post by Samaria Council deputy head David Ben-Zion, which stated: “Here in Huwara the blood of our children was spilled on the road. Huwara needs to be erased today.”
After deleting the post, Ben-Zion said it had been written in the “heat of the moment.”
Following the riots in Huwara, Ben Gvir went to visit the controversial Evyatar settlement, despite a military order barring civilians from visiting the site. The officials said his actions were “fanning the flames” of escalation.
U.S. President Joe Biden's administration was quick to condemn the Huwara riots and called for criminal charges against the rioters.
“We expect the Israeli government to ensure full accountability and legal prosecution of those responsible for these attacks in addition to compensation for the loss of homes and property,” U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price told the press.
Price also denounced the terror attack that killed the two Yaniv brothers, calling it “horrific.”
“Accountability and justice should be pursued with equal rigor in all cases of extremist violence and equal resources dedicated to prevent such attacks and bring those responsible to justice,” he said.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.