The Israeli army acknowledged Friday it “failed” to prevent an attack by Jewish settlers on a Palestinian village in the occupied West Bank, during which one villager was killed.
Revenge attacks on Turmus Ayya and other villages followed the killing of four Israelis by Palestinian gunmen on Tuesday, which Hamas said was in response to an Israeli army raid on Jenin refugee camp which killed six Palestinians the previous day.
Army spokesman Daniel Hagari said troops had tried to prevent Israelis from attacking Turmus Ayya but they were stretched too thin.
“We didn’t have, in the first wave, enough forces in the area they chose,” he told journalists on Friday.
“We failed this time,” Hagari added.
Turmus Ayya residents told AFP they saw between 200 and 300 Israelis rampaging through their village on Wednesday, attacking residents and damaging dozens of houses and cars.
A delegation from more than 20 diplomatic missions, including those of the European Union and the United States, visited the village on Friday to inspect the damage.
The EU’s top representative to the Palestinians, Sven Kuehn von Burgsdorff, blasted Israel for failing to meet its obligations to protect Palestinians.
“There was no attempt or effort to stop the settlers,” he said.
Israeli police said on Friday they had arrested three people in connection with the violence, without giving details.
Turmus Ayya is home to a significant number of Palestinian-Americans and residents voiced their anger at the lack of action from Washington.
“We are helpless,” Yaser al-Kam, 33, told AFP.
“I’m speaking on behalf of this peaceful town where 80 per cent to 90 per cent of residents are US citizens. We hold passports, does this passport matter?” Al-Kam asked.
The 25-year-old Palestinian killed Wednesday, Omar Jabara, was a US Green Card holder, a US official told AFP.
The United Nations human rights chief, Volker Turk, warned “the violence, along with the inflammatory rhetoric, serve only to drive Israelis and Palestinians deeper into an abyss.”
Israel’s extreme-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, insisted what was needed in the West Bank was a large-scale “military operation”.
“Terrorists eliminated, not one or two, but tens and hundreds, and if necessary even thousands,” said Ben-Gvir, himself a settler.