02/27/2023, 19.15
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While Israeli and Palestinian officials 'talk', deadly violence continues in the Territories

Senior Israeli and Palestinian officials met yesterday in Jordan, committed to "de-escalation" and the preservation of the holy places. An attack by settlers in Huwara soon shot down the timid opening with more casualties on both sides. Israeli Finance Minister Smotrich denies reports of a settlement "freeze". Netanyahu pushes to impose the death penalty for terrorism.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The spiral of violence continues  in the West Bank with the risks of a new intifada in spite of shaky (and so far in vain) attempts to mediate between the parties, like  yesterday’s meeting in Jordan between senior Israeli and Palestinian officials.

The latest incident began late yesterday evening, in Huwara, when a mob of Jewish settlers set fire to homes and damaged cars and garbage bins following the death earlier in the day of two young settlers shot while travelling by car near the Palestinian town.

The Israeli government immediately described the incident as "a Palestinian terrorist attack."

Also last evening, a Palestinian man was shot dead when Israeli soldiers and settlers raided Za’tara, a village near Nablus.

In addition to the three deaths, the Huwara incident saw at least 100 cars set alight and 30 homes torched or damaged. Shops and other businesses were also affected.

As a result, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged local settlers to “not take the law into your hands” but “allow the IDF and security forces to do their work”.

Since the end of December, Netanyahu has led Israel’s most right-wing government – some members of his cabinet live in West Bank Jewish settlements or are staunch supporters.

In a statement, some settlement mayors called on residents to let the Israeli military to carry out "a determined and deterrent military operation”.

Reacting to the violence, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas slammed Israel for what he calls “the terrorist acts carried out by settlers under the protection of the occupation forces”.

The latter have in fact multiplied their incursions in the Palestinian territories with brutal results, like last week’s action in Nablus that left 11 people dead, the highest from a military raid in the West Bank since 2005.

Meanwhile, the death toll continues to rise. Since the start of the year, 63 Palestinians have died, both fighters and civilians; 11 Israelis, a police officer and 11 civilians; and a Ukrainian woman.

Amid all this, Israeli and Palestinian officials met in Aqaba, Jordan, to defuse tensions and prevent "further violence".

At the end of the meeting, the two sides signed a joint statement highlighting the “necessity of committing to de-escalation on the ground and to prevent further violence."

Despite this, Israel’s National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi was quick to point out in the evening that Israeli government policy had not changed.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, in charge of civilian affairs in the West Bank, also said, “there will not be a freeze on construction and development in the settlement, not even for one day”.

All said, there is little hope of easing tensions, which was the goal of the talks held in Jordan, which saw the participation of representatives of Egypt, Jordan, and the United States.

One of the meeting’s goals is to preserve the holy places in Jerusalem, where Christians have been the victims to targeted attacks.

To this end, the two sides “confirmed their joint readiness and commitment to immediately work to end unilateral measures for a period of three to six months.”

Just words: no sooner was the ink dry that the violence flared up.

In fact, while the parties agreed to hold further talks in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, next month, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir announced the government’s intention to introduce a bill that would impose the death penalty on people convicted of terrorism.

For Netanyahu, his administration would “continue to act by all means ... to deter the terrorists and maintain Israel's security”.

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