3 Palestinians killed in Israeli raid in occupied West Bank; The United States condemns the latest settlement expansion
TEL AVIV, Israel — Three Palestinians were killed in an Israeli army raid on a West Bank refugee camp early Monday, Palestinian health officials said, while the Biden administration strongly condemned Israel’s latest settlement expansion drive.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said the three men were killed in a raid in Balata, a refugee camp outside the city of Nablus. Six were injured, including one in critical condition, the ministry said.
The army later confirmed that the soldiers had raided Balata; he said the troops came under fire and killed three Palestinians. Israel has stepped up raids in response to the Palestinian attacks, saying Monday’s operation found weapons and an explosives-making operation at a home it blew up.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration issued a sharply worded statement Sunday criticizing Israel for deploying settlers to the previously evacuated Homesh outpost in the northern West Bank.
In March, the Israeli government repealed a 2005 law that abolished four West Bank settlements. Over the weekend, Israel’s army general in the West Bank signed an order attaching Homesh to the regional council of local settlers, a move that paves the way for rebuilding the outpost.
The US was “deeply troubled” by US State Department spokesman Mathew Miller, who said Israel’s policy against the outpost in occupied territory was illegal.
Miller also expressed Washington’s concerns about ultranationalist National Security Minister Itmar Ben-Gvir’s visit to the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site. The disputed site also houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.
“This sacred space must not be used for political purposes, and we call on all parties to respect its sanctity,” Miller said in the statement.
Under long-standing agreements, Jews are allowed to visit the site but are not allowed to pray there. But in recent years, an increasing number of Jewish visitors have begun to pray quietly, raising fears among Palestinians that Israel is preparing to partition or take over the site. Ben-Gvir has long advocated for increased access for Jews.
Ben-Gvir visited the hilltop earlier on Sunday and declared that “we are in charge,” while the Israeli cabinet held a rare meeting in Jerusalem’s Old City to celebrate taking control of the area. Ben-Gvir’s visit drew condemnation from the Palestinians and Israel’s neighbor, Jordan.
Ben-Gvir, a former West Bank settler leader and far-right activist who was convicted years ago of inciting and supporting a Jewish terrorist group, currently serves as Israel’s minister of national security, overseeing the country’s police force.
Since the spring of 2022, more than 250 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire. About 50 people have been killed in Palestinian attacks on Israelis.
According to Israel, most of the Palestinians killed were armed, but stone-throwing youths protesting the incursions and people not involved in the confrontation were also killed.
Last week, Israelis celebrated Jerusalem Day, which commemorates Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem, including the Old City, in the 1967 Middle East war. Flag-waving nationalists marched through the main Palestinian thoroughfare in Jerusalem’s Old City, some singing racist anti-Arab chants, as hundreds of Jews visited the sensitive hilltop shrine.
In the 1967 Middle East war, Israel occupied both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians are seeking these lands for the creation of a future independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israel annexed East Jerusalem in a move not recognized by much of the international community, which considers the city its undivided, permanent capital.
The tension in the disputed complex fueled past violence.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, the most right-wing government in Israeli history, includes ultra-Orthodox and far-right nationalist parties and prioritizes settlement building in the West Bank.
Most of the international community considers the Israeli settlements, home to 700,000 people in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, illegal and obstacles to peace.
At the beginning of the month, fighting also broke out between Israel and the militants in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli strikes killed 33 people, many of them armed, but also women and children. Two people were killed in Israel as a result of armed rocket fire.