West Bank violence
© Ahmad Arouri/APA Images
Palestinian demonstrators clash with Israeli forces near the Jewish settlement of Beit El, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on December 13, 2018.
The ripple effects of Thursday's outburst of violence in the occupied West Bank continued to be felt on Friday, as Palestinians woke up to news of more arrests, clashes, and plans of collective punishment by the Israeli government.

Between Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon, Israeli forces had shot and killed four Palestinians in separate incidents, while two Israeli soldiers were killed by a still unidentified Palestinian shooter, all in and around the central West Bank district of Ramallah.

By Thursday afternoon, Israeli forces had enforced vast closures across the central and northern West Bank, heavily deploying troops at checkpoints, major highways, and inside Palestinian towns and cities.

The intensified presence of soldiers across the occupied territory sparked clashes with Palestinian youth in several cities that lasted well into Friday.

On Friday evening, Israeli forces reportedly shot and killed another Palestinian during Ramallah-area protests, bringing the death toll over the past 48 hours to seven.

Ongoing manhunt

Israel's manhunt for the person responsible for Thursday's shooting attack near the Ofra settlement intensified overnight, as Israeli forces conducted massive search and arrest operations throughout the West Bank.

Israeli forces sealed off the entrances to several towns and villages, as well as major roads and highways connecting Palestinian areas in the West Bank.

According to the Palestinian Prisoner's Society (PPS), Israeli forces detained 100 Palestinians in the predawn hours of Friday.

Among the detainees were a minor, a lawmaker, and a journalist.

PPS identified 49 out of 100 of the detainees, saying that 16 Palestinians were detained in the Hebron area, 10 in Bethlehem, 10 in Jerusalem, six in Ramallah, and seven in the Nablus area.

The majority of the detainees were young men in their late teens and twenties.

Israeli government response

On Thursday night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that in response to the latest spate of Palestinian "terror attacks" on Israeli settlers and soldiers, the government would be authorizing thousands of the settler homes built illegally in the occupied West Bank, some of them decades ago.

According to Reuters, Netanyahu said he would work to advance plans for 82 new housing units in the Ofra settlement, the location of this week's two shooting attacks, and two West Bank industrial zones.

"Arranging the rights for the homes allows thousands of residents to be provided with infrastructure of public buildings, educational and religious buildings," Netanyahu's office said in a statement.

While Netanyahu did not mention the exact number of settler homes to be approved, right-wing Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked tweeted that more than 2,000 homes would be getting permits.

Israeli settlements are considered illegal under international law, as they are built on Palestinian land occupied by Israel since 1967.

Netanyahu has been on thin ice with his extreme right-wing base since he accepted a ceasefire with Hamas officials following a flare up in rocket fire and airstrikes in Gaza last month.

His decision on Thursday is largely being regarded as an effort to placate the pro-settler members of his government.

Netanyahu also called for the family homes of 29-year-old Saleh Omar Barghouthi and 23-year-old Ashraf Na'alwa, the two Palestinians assailants killed yesterday, to be punitively demolished within 48 hours.

Israeli rights group B'Tselem has condemned the practice of punitive home demolitions as "court-sanctioned revenge" carried out on family members who have not committed crimes, amounting to collective punishment.

An Israeli military committee has even previously made recommendations to the government that the practice did not deter attacks.

As Netanyahu revealed his settlement expansion plans, Israel's Education Minister Naftali Bennett, of the right-wing Jewish Home party, announced that he would be demanding full support for a bill calling to forcibly relocate the families of Palestinians accused of "terror attacks" from their homes to other areas of the West Bank.

The proposed legislation stipulates that within a week of an attack or attempted attack, the Israeli army's central command will be permitted to expel the relatives of the Palestinian assailants from their hometowns to other areas of the West Bank, according to the Times of Israel.

"The explanatory text accompanying the bill touts Israel's deterrence as 'the cornerstone of Israeli security and a way to save lives and uphold law and order.'," the report said.

Forcible transfer is considered a war crime under international law.

Settler attacks

As Thursday's events unfolded, reports emerged from across the West Bank of Israeli settlers violently attacking Palestinian civilians in a spate of "revenge attacks."

Shortly after the attack, local Palestinian media reported that Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian vehicles in the Nablus district, near the notoriously violent Yitzhar settlement, in an "alleged revenge attack."

Videos on social media showed settlers from the notoriously violent Yitzhar settlement, near Nablus, hurling large rocks at stopped Palestinian cars on Thursday, as Israeli security personnel stand by in the background. One Palestinian was injured in the attack.

On Thursday night, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) told Ma'an News Agency that one of their ambulance that was transporting an injured Palestinian was attacked by a group of Israeli settlers in the Hebron area, who hurled rocks at the ambulance, forcing it to turn around.


Ma'an also reported two other cases of settler attacks on Palestinian vehicles near the Beit Einun junction, east of Hebron, and at at the Nabi Younis junction, north of Hebron, causing severe damages to the vehicles.

One Palestinian was reportedly injured with live ammunition as settlers, under the protection of Israeli forces, attacked Palestinians in the Ramallah-area village of Beitin.

Human Rights Defenders, a Hebron-based grassroots organization, posted a video of a bloodied Palestinian man in his car, saying he was attacked by settlers from the Jerusalem-area settlement of Kiryat Sefer.


PA suppresses pro-Hamas demonstrations

Despite not claiming the recent spate of shooting attacks, Hamas is largely being held responsible for the latest wave of violence.

Friday marked the anniversary of the Hamas' founding, and supporters of the political faction took to the streets in Hebron and Nablus to demonstrate support of the group.

It wasn't long before, in Hebron, Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces violently suppressed the demonstrations.

Videos circulated on social media show PA security forces using batons to beat demonstrators, many of them women.

In Nablus, it was reported that pro-Hamas demonstrators came under attack by members of other rival political factions more closely aligned with the PA.

The violence of the PA sparked outrage on Palestinian social media, as people drew comparisons between Friday's events and anti-government demonstrations over the summer that were also violently suppressed,

Friday's events are largely being regarded as evidence of the PA's ongoing security coordination with Israel.

The PA's security coordination with Israel has been denounced as a "revolving door" policy funneling Palestinian activists from PA jails to Israeli prisons, and is seen as a primary reason for the growing unpopularity of PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Casualties rise as clashes continue

Clashes between Israeli armed forces and Palestinian civilians continued into Friday evening across the West Bank and Gaza.

On the Gaza border, participants in the ongoing Great March of Return stepped up demonstrations on Friday in protest of the four Palestinians who were killed in the West Bank on Thursday.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, at least 46 Palestinians, including a paramedic, were injured by Israeli live fire on the border.

In the northern West Bank district of Nablus, Israeli forces shot a 17-year-old Palestinian in the face with a rubber-coated steel bullet during clashes in the al-Lubban al-Sharqiya village. He was taken to hospital and reported to be in moderate condition.

Two Palestinians were shot and injured with rubber-coated steel bullets during clashes in the al-Mughayyar village in eastern Ramallah, according to Ma'an News.

Ma'an also reported that Israeli forces opened fire on a Palestinian ambulance in the Ramallah-area town of al-Bireh, and that an Israeli soldier was severely injured after a heavy rock was thrown on his head near the Beit El settlement in Ramallah.