Israeli settlers in a convoy of cars rampaged through a Palestinian town in the West Bank near Nablus on Monday evening, marking the latest in a string of violent incidents involving settlers in recent months.
Israel’s Defense Minister condemned the settlers’ behavior and promised to take action, though Palestinians say they are skeptical of Israel’s willingness to carry through those pledges.
The group of settlers, who according to local reports were celebrating the release from prison of a man convicted of assaulting Palestinians, threw rocks through windows of businesses and vehicles, injuring at least one person.
“Last night a march of settlers came from Zaatara towards Huwwara driving their cars. They attacked houses, shops and cars,” Huwwara’s mayor, Mueen Al Dmeidi, told CNN.
The Israeli military confirmed the incident on Monday, saying in a statement that a confrontation broke out between Israelis and Palestinians in the village of Huwwara, south of Nablus.
“The confrontation began when a number of Israeli civilians drove into the village and threw stones, causing significant damage to businesses and vehicles,” according to the military statement.
One widely circulated video shows two men apparently throwing rocks at a parked car, before they get back into their own car and rejoin the convoy.
A 17-year old Palestinian was injured, according to Palestinian news agency Wafa, with other reports suggesting that at least three people suffered injuries.
The incident prompted Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz to promise tough action against what he called “nationalistically motivated violence.”
In a Monday statement, Gantz said than anyone who throws rocks or sets cars aflame “is a terrorist and will be treated as such.”
He went on: “I have recently initiated several meetings to discuss this issue, and we currently find ourselves at the height of the process to strengthen our troops on the ground, to build forces with the police and (the internal intelligence agency), and to determine operational and legal proceedings vis-a-vis such incidents.”
Israeli officials have made similar statements vowing to take action against settler attacks in recent months, but rights groups say the army does not often intervene. For its part, the army says it is committed to the security of all residents in relevant areas.
An Israeli police spokesperson told CNN that there had been no arrests relating to the incident but said the matter was still under investigation. Palestinian mayor of Huwwara, Al Dmeidi, told CNN he was skeptical any perpetrators would be punished.
“Imagine if the opposite had happened and it was Palestinians who had attacked Israelis,” he said, adding: “A massacre would have been carried out against Palestinians. You would have seen dead Palestinians, while the whole world would have spoken about the poor Israeli victims.”
The incident in Huwwara comes just days after settlers attacked a group of Israeli peace activists on Friday in the nearby West Bank village of Burin.
In that incident, which was also captured on video and widely shared, a group of about a dozen masked settlers attacked a group of Israeli anti-occupation activists and Palestinians with stones and clubs, setting fire to one of their cars.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said 10 of the activists, who had been helping Palestinian farmers to plant trees, had been injured in the attack.
CNN’s Mike Schwartz contributed to this report.