Israel rebukes UN official for referring to terror attack as 'scuffle'

The coordinator tweeted that he was “horrified by today’s killing of a Palestinian man during a scuffle with an Israeli soldier near Huwara."

 IDF soldiers secure the scene after a Border Police officer was stabbed in Huwara, December 2, 2022. (photo credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)
IDF soldiers secure the scene after a Border Police officer was stabbed in Huwara, December 2, 2022.
(photo credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)

Israel rebuked a top UN official who referred to a Palestinian assault on an Israeli couple and a Border Police officer on Friday as a “scuffle” and said he was “horrified” that security forces fatally shot the attacker.

On Saturday evening a senior Foreign Ministry official spoke with UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland, who tweeted about the violence that occurred on Route 60, a main artery in the West Bank town of Huwara, just south of Nablus, that is used by both Israelis and Palestinians.

In the conversation, the official “expressed his displeasure” at Wennesland’s words.

After the attack, the special coordinator tweeted that he was “horrified by today’s killing of a Palestinian man, Ammar Mifleh, during a scuffle with an Israeli soldier near Huwara in the [“occupied”] West Bank.

“My heartfelt condolences to his bereaved family. Such incidents must be fully [and] promptly investigated, [and] those responsible held accountable,” Wennesland wrote.

 IDF soldiers secure the scene after a Border Police officer was stabbed in Huwara, December 2, 2022. (credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90) IDF soldiers secure the scene after a Border Police officer was stabbed in Huwara, December 2, 2022. (credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon shot back that Wennesland’s statement was a “total distortion of reality.”

Nahshon emphasized that “this incident is a terror attack, in which an Israeli policeman was stabbed in his face and the life of another police officer was threatened and consequently he shot his assailant.

"This is NOT a “scuffle” - this is a terror attack!," Nahshon added for emphasis.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz tweeted their support for the border police.

Lapid said that the officer who killed the terrorist had "saved lives." He added that "any attempt to tell a false story" about the attack 'was a disgrace' and emphasized that 'our security forces will continue to act resolutely against terrorism wherever it rises its head."

An Israel Border Police officer was lightly injured in a stabbing attack that occurred after a Palestinian, identified as Ammar Mefleh, attempted to break into a vehicle with an Israeli couple inside, the Border Police said.

After he realized the car door was locked, he tried to break into it using a stone, before being shot by the driver – an IDF officer on leave.

Mefleh then approached a team of Border Police soldiers and stabbed one of them in the face, lightly injuring him. Graphic footage posted to social media showed another Border Police officer trying to arrest Mefleh as two other Palestinians attempted to pull him away from the officer.

The officer then put Mefleh in a headlock, pulling him away from the other Palestinians until he broke free from the officer’s grasp. The attacker then appeared to grab for the officer’s weapon. At that point the officer pulled his handgun and fired four shots at Mefleh at point black range, killing him.

The wounded officer was evacuated from the scene of the stabbing for medical treatment, and the terrorist’s death was determined at the scene of the attack.

On Saturday night, the officer told Channel 12 he feared that had Mefleh succeeded in grabbing his gun, he would have used it for a terror attack against motorists.

Police Chief Kobi Shabtai visited the officer shortly after the stabbing in order to congratulate him for his professional behavior in the face of the attack.

“You acted professionally, as we expect from every combat soldier and every commander,” he said.

Border Police Assistant Chief Amir Cohen spoke with the officer who shot the terrorist after he attempted to steal his weapon, praising him for his quick reaction to the incident.

“The vigilance of the fighters, under the command of their officer, prevented significant harm to innocent people,” he said in a statement afterward.

“Within seconds, the team realized that it was an attempted [terror] attack and rushed toward the terrorist who was finally stopped by gunfire before he could harm Israeli civilians.”

On Saturday, clashes broke out with Israeli security forces in Mefleh’s hometown of Osarin after Israel refused to release his body to his family for burial.

The Palestinian presidency slammed what it called the “cold-blooded killing” of Mefleh, saying in a statement that the killing of Palestinians by Israeli forces “has become an official policy for the successive Israeli government” and that it “requires urgent intervention to provide international protection to the defenseless Palestinian people.”

Mefleh was the ninth Palestinian killed in less than four days.

Operation Break the Wave

The IDF’s ongoing Operation Break the Wave has seen heavy clashes between Israeli security forces and armed Palestinian gunmen, with the operations in the West Bank leading to the deaths of over 140 Palestinians – almost double the 73 in 2021 and seven times the 20 in 2020.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tweeted on Saturday that “the EU is greatly concerned about the increasing level of violence” in the West Bank, noting that “during the last days alone, 10 Palestinians have been killed by ISF (Israeli Security Forces).

“Yesterday’s tragic killing of a Palestinian man, Ammar Mefleh, by a member of the ISF was the latest example.

“Such unacceptable facts must be investigated and there must be full accountability. Under international law, lethal force is only justified in situations in which there exists a serious and imminent threat to life.”

In Washington on Friday, US State Department spokesman Ned Price spoke more generally of the Biden administration’s concern about West Bank violence.

“We continue to be deeply concerned by the intensifying violence in the West Bank and the resulting deaths and injuries, including numerous children.

“We re-emphasize the need for all parties to do everything in their power to de-escalate the situation. It’s vital that the parties themselves take urgent action to prevent even greater loss of life,” he said.

“Our approach continues to be the same. We continue to emphasize that Israelis and Palestinians deserve to have equal measures of security, of stability, of justice, of dignity and of democracy.”

"We continue to be deeply concerned by the intensifying violence in the West Bank and the resulting deaths and injuries, including numerous children."

Ned Price, US State Department spokesperson

The military says that the high number of Palestinian deaths stems from the fact that a massive amount of gunfire is directed toward troops during raids, leading them to fire back, many times killing the gunmen. Not all the Palestinians killed have been attackers; some have been bystanders to the events.

Along with the high number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces, two soldiers and two officers have also been killed during operations and another 15 civilians have been killed in attacks since Break the Wave began.

Though the military is operating throughout the West Bank, the focus has remained on the northern cities of Jenin and Nablus where the Palestinian Authority Security Forces have been unable to clamp down on the violence.