Footage Shows Settlers Shooting Two Palestinians

JERUSALEM - An Israeli human rights group released video footage yesterday showing Israeli settlers shooting two Palestinians at close range, hours after police forcibly evicted residents of a controversial settlement house in the occupied West Bank.

The film, recorded by a Palestinian in Hebron with a camera from the group B'Tselem, showed settlers attacking his house, situated in a valley close to the building where dozens of settlers were evicted by riot police on Thursday.

In the hours following the eviction, Jewish settlers rioted in Hebron, throwing stones at police and Palestinians and setting fire to trees around Palestinian homes. Most of the violence took place between the house and the hardline Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba nearby.

About 35 people were injured in clashes between settlers and Palestinians. Five of the injured Palestinians suffered gunshot wounds, according to hospital officials.

Riad Malki, the Palestinian foreign minister, said: "We hold the Israeli government and army responsible for what is happening." Hundreds of Israeli police were still deployed in Hebron yesterday in case of further violence.

The video footage showed a settler firing a handgun at two Palestinians, Hosni Abu Se'ifan, 40, who was hit in the chest and is now in a stable condition in hospital, and his father, Abd al-Hai Abu Se'ifan, 65, who was hurt in the arm.

Others from the family then overpowered the gunman until armed Israeli security guards from the Kiryat Arba settlement arrived and shot several rounds over the heads of the Palestinians. The Abu Se'ifan family have frequently been targeted by settlers.

B'Tselem handed the video to Israeli police in Hebron and said the gunman and the security guards should be investigated and brought to justice.

"Additionally, the security forces must investigate the failures that allowed settlers to riot throughout the afternoon and evening in Hebron's Palestinian neighbourhoods," the rights group said.

There are about 470,000 Jewish settlers living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and their numbers are increasing every year, even though all settlements in the occupied territories are illegal under international law.

The settlers at the Hebron house - called the House of Peace by settlers but the House of Contention by the media - claimed they had bought the building legally two years ago from a Palestinian. The Palestinian has denied selling the building to the settlers, and last month the Israeli supreme court said the house should be evacuated until the ownership dispute was settled.

Robert Serry, the UN Middle East special coordinator, said that as the occupying power Israel had a duty to protect Palestinians from settler attacks.

"I condemn the ensuing violence and attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians and the destruction and desecration of Palestinian property, mosques and graves, as well as settler attacks on Israeli security forces," he said.

Hebron is home to about 600 Jewish settlers and 170,000 Palestinians.

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