The Palestinian Authority and Hamas on Wednesday called for the formation of “popular committees” to defend Palestinians in the West Bank against attacks by Jewish settlers.
In the past, Palestinian officials and activists called for the formation of such committees in some villages and towns in the West Bank.
The call came after dozens of settlers attacked the town of Turmus Ayya, north of Ramallah, in response to Tuesday’s shooting attack in which four Israelis were killed and four others wounded outside the settlement of Eli.
The PA, Hamas and other Palestinian parties strongly condemned the attack on Turmus Ayya and said Israel would pay the price.
The Palestinian Ministry of Health said 27-year-old Omar Kattin was shot and killed during the violence in Turmus Ayya. Another 12 Palestinians were injured, one critically, the Ministry added.
Palestinian sources said at least 30 houses and 60 vehicles were set on fire during the settler rampage.
PLO Secretary-General Hussein al-Sheikh held the Israeli government “fully responsible for the organized settler terrorism.” He called on Palestinians to form “popular committees” to defend their properties “confront this terrorism.”
Sheikh demanded that the US administration and the international community force Israel to reign in the settlers.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas phoned Turmus Ayya Mayor Lafi Deeb and stressed that the Palestinians have the right to defend themselves against the “crimes and attacks of settlers and the continuous brutality of the occupation army,” Sheikh said.
The PA’s official news agency Wafa quoted Abbas as saying that the residents of Turmus Ayya, many of whom hold US citizenship, are entitled to file lawsuits against the IDF and the settlers in US courts.
The PLO official called on the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to accelerate its examination of Israeli “crimes” against Palestinians.
PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said the attack on Turmus Ayya “reflects the mentality of arson and killing that rules Israel.”
Shtayyeh accused the IDF of allowing the settlers to attack the town and said this was “a recipe for destruction for which everyone will pay the price.”
Rawhi Fattouh, Chairman of the Palestinian National Council, the PLO’s legislative body, condemned Tuesday’s events at Turmus Ayya as “a dangerous escalation and a crime backed by the occupation government.” The Israeli government, Fattouh said, will bear responsibility for the repercussions of the settler violence.
Palestinians condemn US silence
He criticized the US administration for its “silence” and failure to intervene to stop the violence.
Mohammed Hamadan, a spokesperson for Hamas, also urged Palestinians in the West Bank to form “popular committees” to confront the “crimes and aggression of the settlers.” He also called on the PA to assume its role in defending the Palestinians against such attacks.
In a statement, Hamas denounced the settler violence against Palestinians as a “heinous crime that won’t intimidate our people and that would be met with more steadfastness and resistance.”
“Our heroic people won’t be terrorized by the enemy’s criminal practices, which show it has lost its mind due to the strikes by our heroic resistance fighters, the latest of which was the heroic operation carried by the heroes of Izaddin al-Qassam Brigades, south of Nablus.”
Hamas announced on Tuesday that the two terrorists who carried out the attack at Eli were members of its armed wing, Izaddin al-Qassam.
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) organization, the second largest terror group in the Gaza Strip after Hamas, also threatened that Israel would pay the price for the settler assaults on Palestinians.
“The policy of terrorism practiced by the occupation and its settlers against our people – with the hope that it would kill the spirit of resistance – won’t succeed,” said PIJ spokesman Tareq Silmi. “[Israel] will pay the price for the crimes perpetrated against the Palestinian people.”
The PIJ official said the Palestinian armed groups have taken it upon themselves to respond to the “crimes” of the settlers.