JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli settlers on Saturday attacked Palestinians during a pilgrimage in the occupied West Bank, according to the Palestinian news agency, and Israel's army said at least one soldier was injured by a settler.
The incidents happened in the city of Hebron, where thousands of Jewish Israelis visit a sacred tomb annually under the protection of the military.
The official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that settlers attacked residents and threw rocks and empty bottles at their houses and vehicles as they entered the city. It said Israeli forces arrested two Palestinians.
But the Israeli military also said pilgrims attacked soldiers who were protecting their entry to the volatile Palestinian town in southern West Bank. It was not clear how many of the pilgrims took part in the reported attacks.
The military said a man assaulted a female soldier and injured her lightly.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid condemned the attack on the soldier as “a national disgrace.” Vowing to make the perpetrators accountable, he added that “this is a moral injury to the Israel Defense Forces and to those who protect our lives; this is a serious criminal offense.”
“This is a very serious event,” said Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, the army chief of staff. “It cannot be that an Israeli civilian will violently attack IDF soldiers who operate to protect and keep civilians safe,” he added.
He called for “a rapid lawful response” to the incident, describing it as “shameful and criminal behavior.”
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war and has built more than 130 settlements that today are home to nearly 500,000 settlers, who have Israeli citizenship. Nearly 3 million Palestinians live in the territory under open-ended Israeli military rule. The Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule over parts of the West Bank and cooperates with Israel on security matters.
The Palestinians want the West Bank to form the main part of their future state. Most countries view the settlements as a violation of international law.
Intensified Israeli-Palestinian fighting in the West Bank and east Jerusalem has also killed more than 130 Palestinians this year, making it the deadliest since 2006, according to Israeli rights group B’Tselem.