With all eyes on Gaza war, violence is quietly mounting in the West Bank – Lifotravel

QUSRA, West Bank — At least 11 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces and dozens injured across the West Bank on Friday, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, as fears rise over mounting violence and instability ahead of an expected Israeli land invasion of Gaza.

In scenes rare for the West Bank, Palestinians raised Hamas flags in a solidarity march with Gaza, defying long-standing political divides between the Islamist militant group and the West Bank’s dominant Fatah party. Many in the occupied territory spent the day glued to the news as Israel ordered 1.1 million Gazans under bombardment to evacuate — fueling Palestinian fears of another mass displacement.

Four of the Palestinians killed Friday were shot dead during clashes with Israeli security forces west of Tulkarem, according to WAFA, the official Palestinian news agency. A 14-year-old was killed during “confrontations” near a military checkpoint east of Nablus, WAFA said.

At least 43 West Bank Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and settlers since Saturday, when Hamas gunmen rampaged through southern Israel, killing at least 1,300 people. Palestinians have been blocked from leaving the West Bank or traveling between cities. On Friday, Israel’s Route 60, which connects Jewish settlements and divides Palestinian communities, was eerily empty.

All eyes are now on Gaza, where more than 1,700 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced. Just a week ago, though, the West Bank was thought to be Israel’s most pressing security challenge.

Israel massed troops in the West Bank. Then Hamas attacked from Gaza.

The 1993 Oslo peace accords envisioned the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem as part of a future Palestinian state. Thirty years later, Israel controls most of the West Bank, with pockets governed by the Palestinian Authority. Hamas, the authority’s longtime rival, seized power of Gaza in 2007.

Palestinians are physically separated and politically divided. The collapse of the U.S.-led peace process, the intensifying Israeli occupation and the aging leadership of the Palestinian Authority have fueled widespread anger and disillusion across the West Bank, allowing new militant groups to rise to prominence.

‘Tomorrow’s martyrs’: Inside a Palestinian militant cell in the West Bank

Even before the latest round of violence, at least 179 Palestinians in the West Bank had been killed since January, according to the latest United Nations report — making 2023 the deadliest year in two decades.

As Israel ramps up its war in Gaza, settler violence against Palestinians here is escalating.

It’s a time of tension and mourning for Palestinians outside of Gaza, where the fighting is the fiercest. A trip to Jerusalem, the West Bank reveals the anger. (Video: Jon Gerberg, Zoeann Murphy, Lee Powell/The Washington Post)

On Wednesday, armed settlers shot dead three Palestinians from the same family outside their home near Qusra, a small village of some 7,000 people, according to Palestinian officials and family members.

The three men were taken to a trauma hospital in nearby Nablus but later succumbed to their wounds. Returning the bodies home meant traveling along a route partly controlled by the Israelis, said family member Abdulazim al-Wadi, which required negotiating with multiple authorities for permission.

At one crucial juncture of the journey, as ambulances prepared to take the bodies from one side of a highway to another, settlers arrived and started throwing rocks.

In the confrontation that ensued, Abdulazim said, settlers shot dead his brother, Ibrahim Ahmed al-Wadi, 68, and nephew, 31-year-old Ahmed Ibrahim al-Wadi.

Qusra is an isolated town that has long been targeted by settlers, but it has also hosted anti-occupation activists from Israel. On Friday, a man near the village’s entrance checked cars and said no Israelis were allowed.

At a large mourning hall, Abdulazim said he has served on local councils and worked to coordinate with the Israeli authorities in charge of the West Bank. He used to call the military when settlers attacked. These days, he said, the younger generation mocks his calls to avoid violence.

“Maybe tomorrow my son will disagree and say, ‘no, no, dad I want to kill them as they killed my cousin,’” he said.

“We suffer from the problems,” he added, “as we did before the [Gaza] war.”

With Gaza and Israel at war, Palestinian Authority struggles to be heard

The Palestinian Authority, which is deeply unpopular and widely viewed as a security contractor for Israel, has been largely absent as the war unfolds.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh Friday accused Israel of putting “our people in Gaza … through a genocide.” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was in Amman for a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Abbas called for an end to “Israeli aggression” and said the forced evacuation of people from Gaza would constitute a “second catastrophe for our people” — a reference to the displacement of Palestinians in 1948 when the state of Israel was established.

At a roundabout near the entrance to Ramallah, the seat of Abbas’ government, hundreds of young men in black clothes clashed with Israeli security forces.

“We came to make an intifada,” said 26-year-old Anwar Abu Salem, using the Arabic term for an uprising, “for our people in Gaza who are being slaughtered.”

“We want an end to the occupation and the Palestinian Authority and to get our land back.”

Sufian Taha contributed to this report

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