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Huwwara assaults: Probe concludes no disciplinary action against Israel army officials

Internal army investigation finds mismanagement in response to violent rampage by settlers, but no punitive measures taken against military personnel
An Israeli troop and settler security officer walk past a burning car reportedly set on fire by settlers in the Palestinian Burin village in the occupied West Bank on 25 February 2023 (AFP)
An Israeli soldier and settler security officer walks past a burning car reportedly set on fire by settlers in the Palestinian Burin village in the occupied West Bank on 25 February 2023 (AFP)

No disciplinary measures will be taken against Israeli military officials or personnel following the settler attacks on Huwwara despite an internal army investigation concluding that their response had failed.

At least one Palestinian was killed and nearly 400 were wounded in settler attacks on Huwwara and other occupied West Bank towns and villages in the Nablus area on 26 February.  

Hundreds of Israeli settlers, flanked by soldiers, attacked Palestinians and torched their cars and properties following a shooting that killed two Israelis in Huwwara earlier that day. 

The Israeli army’s central command chief presented the findings of an internal probe to Herzl Halevi, the army’s chief of staff, on Wednesday. 

Halevi said that the chain of command had erred in both its allocation of troops and in controlling the incident. 

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“This is a grave incident which took place under our watch, and should not have happened,” he said. 

“The expectation of every soldier in regular and reserve service is to act professionally and morally to prevent such acts, following their training and in accordance with [our] values.”

Despite the findings, no disciplinary action will be taken against any of those involved. 

The probe recommended improving cooperation between the army, Shin Bet, and police, as well as preparing for a swifter reinforcement of security forces in the future “when there is a suspicion that such a grave situation might develop”. 

Soldiers witness attacks

Sicha Mekomit, an independent Israeli news site, published video analysis and footage that showed Israeli soldiers were present during the rampage.

The footage, which was taken by Palestinians, shows at least two Israeli army jeeps and a police car at the scene. They did not intervene to stop the settlers' assaults.

Israeli far-right finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, said last week that the state of Israel should "wipe out" Huwwara. 

The US condemned his comments as  "repugnant, irresponsible and disgusting", with US State Department spokesman Ned Price calling on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top officials to "publicly and clearly" disavow the minister's comments.

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Smotrich also took to Twitter while attacks were ongoing to promote a thread that recommended the "collective punishment of the terrorist's family and environment as an effective and necessary tool in asymmetric warfare". 

A group of 22 Israeli legal experts on Tuesday called on the attorney general to investigate comments made by Smotrich and other pro-settler government MPs for "inducing war crimes" over their public support for the violent riots.

Former Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said that Smotrich was supporting the settler violence and "wants to cause another Palestinian Nakba". 

Middle East Eye reported earlier this week that Israeli settlers had shared on Whatsapp a song celebrating the burning of Huwwara and its anticipated erasure. 

Overlaid with the melody of the song Hanania by popular religious Zionist singer Hanan Ben-Ari, the song starts with: "What is burning down…Huwwara/Houses and cars…Huwwara/ Evicting from [Huwwara] old women, the young and girls too."

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