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Israeli settler kills Palestinian after opening fire on solidarity march in Nablus

May 18, 2017 1:15 P.M. (Updated: May 25, 2017 4:21 P.M.)
Photo of Muataz Hussein Hilal Bani Shamsa, 23, who was shot and killed by an Israeli settler
NABLUS (Ma’an) -- One Palestinian was killed and another was injured after after an Israeli settler stepped out of his car and opened live ammunition on a group of Palestinian protesters near the village of Huwwara in the northern occupied West Bank district of Nablus on Thursday afternoon.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health confirmed that Muataz Hussein Hilal Bani Shamsa, 23, from the Nablus-area village of Beita succumbed to his wounds shortly after he was shot during clashes that broke out after a march that was being held in solidarity with hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners.

The march was being held on the main street near Huwwara, which is shared by local Palestinians and Israeli settlers, residing in the West Bank in contravention of international law.

Witnesses told Ma'an that an Israeli settler opened live ammunition on the crowd of Palestinian protesters, shooting Bani Shamsa in the head and killing him.

Palestinian journalist Majdi Ishtayeh, who Israeli news daily Haaretz reported was an AP photographer, was also injured with live ammunition shot by the settler and was transferred to Rafidiya Hospital where medical sources described his injuries as moderate.

Photo of Palestinian journalist Majdi Ishtayeh who was injured when an Israeli settler opened live ammunition on a solidarity march for Palestinian hunger strikers

Head of the ambulance and emergency department of the Palestinian Red Crescent Ahmad Jibril confirmed to Ma'an that an Israeli settler stepped out of his vehicle and opened fire at Palestinians "in a random manner," noting that the settler had opened live ammunition on the protesters at the same time that clashes were ongoing with Israeli forces, who were shooting tear gas canisters at the demonstrators.

Jibril added that the settler had hit a Red Crescent ambulance with his car following the shooting, as the ambulance was on its way to the location where Bani Shamsa was shot. The settler hit three Palestinians during the vehicular incident, Jibril said, adding that the three had sustained minor injuries from the settler's car.

Israeli authorities also implemented a closure on the Huwwara military checkpoint, located on the same road, according to witnesses.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an that "a violent riot broke out" in Huwwara and that "hundreds of Palestinians threw rocks at passing vehicles," adding that Israeli forces responded with "riot dispersal means."

"One of the Israeli civilians whose car was damaged by Palestinian rock-throwing fired into the air," the spokesperson said, adding that the army was aware that one Palestinian was killed while another was injured.

According to the spokesperson, the army was not involved in the shooting of Bani Shamsa and Ishtayeh. However, she added, "(the shooting) may possibly be from the Israeli (settler), but the incident is under review."

The spokesperson said she was unable to comment on whether the Israeli settler had been detained or reprimanded in any way for opening live fire on the Palestinian crowd.
Photo from the protest following the killing of Bani Shamsa

Bani Shamsa was the 23rd Palestinian to be killed by Israeli forces and settlers since the start of 2017. Seven Israelis were killed by Palestinians during the same time frame.

On Wednesday, an Israeli settler opened fire on a group of Palestinian activists in Ramallah who had closed off a section of a highway to voice their support for the ongoing mass hunger strike, which entered its 32nd day on Thursday. Ibrahim Rasem Hamed, 19, was injured during the shooting, and sustained moderate wounds, according to Haaretz.

Following Thursday's deadly shooting at Huwwara, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov released a statement, saying he condemned the attack, and that “this deplorable incident must be promptly and thoroughly investigated and all suspected of being involved must be prosecuted.”

Despite Mladenov's call for a swift investigation into the shooting, Palestinian activists and rights groups have long accused Israel of fostering a “culture of impunity” for Israeli settlers and soldiers committing violent acts against Palestinians.

In March, Israeli NGO Yesh Din revealed that Israeli authorities served indictments in only 8.2 percent of cases of Israeli settlers committing anti-Palestinian crimes in the occupied West Bank in the past three years.

Between 500,000 and 600,000 Israelis live in Jewish-only settlements across occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank in violation of international law, with announcements of settlement expansion earlier this year sparking condemnation from the international community.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there were a total of 107 reported settler attacks against Palestinians and their properties in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem in 2016.

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