JERUSALEM (AP) – Israeli settlers on Saturday attacked Palestinians performing the hajj pilgrimage in the occupied West Bank, according to Palestinian news agencies, and the Israeli military said at least one soldier was wounded by a settler.
The incident took place in the city of Hebron, where thousands of Israeli Jews visit the holy tomb every year under military protection.
The official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that settlers attacked residents and threw stones and empty bottles at their homes and vehicles as they entered the city. It said Israeli forces arrested two Palestinians.
But the Israeli military also said the pilgrims attacked troops guarding their entry into the volatile Palestinian town in the southern West Bank. It is unclear how many worshipers took part in the reported attack.
The military said a man assaulted a female soldier and lightly injured her.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid condemned the attack on the soldier as “a disgrace to the country.” Vowing to hold the perpetrators accountable, he added that “this is a moral injury to the Israel Defense Forces and to those who protect our lives; this is a serious criminal offence.”
“This is a very serious event,” said Lt. General Aviv Kohavi, army chief of staff. “There is no way Israeli civilians will violently attack IDF soldiers who are operating to protect and maintain the safety of civilians,” he added.
He called for a “swift legal response” to the incident, describing it as “disgraceful and criminal behavior.”
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war and has built more than 130 settlements that are now home to nearly 500,000 settlers, who have Israeli citizenship. Nearly 3 million Palestinians live in the territory under open Israeli military rule. The Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule over parts of the West Bank and cooperates with Israel on security matters.
The Palestinians want the West Bank to form a major part of their future state. Most countries see the settlement as a violation of international law.
The intensifying Israeli-Palestinian fighting in the West Bank and east Jerusalem has also killed more than 130 Palestinians this year, making it the deadliest since 2006, according to Israeli rights group B’Tselem.