Hundreds of Israeli troops were searching for suspected Palestinian gunmen on Friday, after the killing of a settler couple between the illegal Israeli settlements of Itamar and Elon Moreh, near Nablus, in the northern West Bank, on Thursday evening.
A Ma’an reporter said dozens of Israeli army vehicles were stationed near the Palestinian town of Huwwara and searching vehicles in the area.
The Beit Furik military checkpoint north of the town was closed in both directions, with Palestinian residents prohibited from leaving. Residents told Ma’an that they had been waiting outside at the checkpoint all night to return to their homes.
Israeli soldiers reportedly told residents that the checkpoint was closed to prevent clashes with settlers, who had gathered at the other side of checkpoint and were threatening Palestinians.
The Huwwara checkpoint was only open travelling north, with no Palestinian cars allowed through towards the southern West Bank.
Dozens of settlers protested at the Zatara checkpoint in southern Nablus chanting ‘Death to Arabs’ and calling for a response to the killing of the two settlers, as Israeli armed forces were stationed nearby.
Settlers threw rocks at Palestinian vehicles in southern Nablus, witnesses said.
Palestinian security sources said the Palestinian side of the Yitzhar-Nablus and Itamar-Alon Moreh roads would be closed to cars until further notice, with all access for Palestinians in and around Nablus highly restricted.
The Palestinian liaison office warned Palestinians not to use roads near Israeli settlements in the Nablus area, after receiving information about large crowds of settlers targeting cars near the Shilo and Yitzhar settlements, as well as the Huwwara and Zatara checkpoints.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, who visited the attack site on Friday, said the army and security forces had been deployed ‘to place our hands on the murderers.’
In remarks relayed by his office, Yaalon linked recent violence to unrest surrounding Al-Aqsa and also blamed what he termed ‘incitement’ from Palestinian leaders, ‘especially (Abbas).’
Hundreds of Israeli settlers rioted across the occupied West Bank, late Thursday, with multiple attacks reported on Palestinian homes and vehicles in the aftermath of the shooting.
A Palestinian car was set on fire near Ramallah and price-tag graffiti was sprayed on a nearby wall, while hundreds of settlers attempted to raid villages in the Nablus area and threw rocks at Palestinian cars, damaging at least 15, including an ambulance.
Israeli security forces were conducting an ‘intensive search’ on the ground combined with intelligence efforts, said army spokesman Arye Shalicar.
The circumstances surrounding Thursday’s attack remain unclear. A group purportedly linked to the Palestinian Fateh movement — the Abdel Qader al-Husseini Brigades — claimed responsibility, but this could not be immediately verified.
Eitam and Naama Henkin, both in their 30s, were killed while driving on Thursday night between the illegal settlements of Itamar and Elon More.
Their four children, aged between four months and nine years, were found unharmed in the back of the car.