Mohamad Torokman / Reuters

Riots break out after Israeli settlers shot dead in West Bank

Israelis torched Palestinians’ olive trees and agricultural land in apparent ‘price tag’ attacks

Hundreds of Israeli settlers rioted overnight into Friday throughout the occupied West Bank over the shooting death of a settler couple.

The crowds set fire to olive trees in the Palestinian village of Burin, and to acres of agricultural land in the town of Huwwara, Ma’an News Agency reported.

Both are in the Nablus area, near the site where at least two gunmen fatally shot Neria settlement residents Eitam Henkin, an officer in the Israeli military’s Sayeret Matkal commando unit, and his wife Naama, in their car on Thursday evening. They were pronounced dead at the scene, while their four children, who were in the car with them, were unharmed.

Following a statement by Israeli authorities that the gunmen may be Palestinian, Israeli settlers torched a car in the Palestinian village of Baytilu, north of Ramallah, and spray-painted the words “Revenge, Henkin” on a nearby wall, local news agencies reported. Settlers also damaged a Palestinian home in Beitin, another northern Ramallah village, Ynet news reported

Other incidents of vandalism were reported in Palestinian towns and villages throughout the West Bank near Israeli settlements, which are deemed illegal under international law.

Settler attacks on Palestinians and their properties are common in the West Bank, and are known as “price tag” attacks. They are usually carried out in apparent retribution for Israeli government actions perceived as siding with Palestinians over Israeli settlers. Last month, Israelis from the settlement of Yizhar set fire to dozens of olive trees in the village of Burin.

On Friday, thousands of people including Israeli President Reuven Rivlin attended the Henkin family funeral in Jerusalem.

"We cannot stand silently when the hands of murderers steal a loving mother and father away from their children," Rivilin said in a eulogy. "We are facing a brutal terrorist onslaught."

Immediately after the deadly shooting, Israel sent additional troops to lock down the Nablus area in their search for the suspects.

Israeli settlers gather during a demonstration at the site where an Israeli couple was shot dead on Thursday, near the occupied West Bank city of Nablus on Oct. 2, 2015.
Abed Omar Qusini / Reuters

Settler leaders said they planned to protest in front of the Jerusalem office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who was in New York City after addressing the United Nations on Thursday — to demand tougher action in defending settlers. They also planned to demonstrate on Friday at the Palestinian village of Beit Furik, near the site of the Henkins’ shooting.

Before Thursday, the most recent shooting attack on an Israeli in the West Bank happened on June 29, when a settler died and three others in a car with him were wounded.

On July 31, suspected settlers firebombed a Palestinian home in the village of Duma in an attack that killed toddler Ali Saad Dawabsha and fatally wounded his parents. That assault was also widely deemed a “price tag” attack, due to graffiti scrawled on the house’ outside walls.

The Henkins’ shooting comes after weeks of tensions in Jerusalem over the site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, and considered holy by both faiths. Israeli police and Palestinian protesters have clashed at the spot in recent weeks, and seven Palestinians were arrested Monday after fights broke out between Muslim worshippers and Israeli police there. 

Al Jazeera and wire services. Ehab Zahriyeh contributed to this report.

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