Israeli Finance Minister Calls for Offensive Against Palestinians, More Settlement Construction

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The Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich called on Saturday for the Israeli occupation military to “go on the offensive” against Palestinians and for more settlement construction in the West Bank.

Smotrich’s remarks came after a shooting attack in the West Bank town of Huwara that left two Israeli settlers dead. The attacker is still at large.

In recent months, Huwara has become the backdrop for a series of distressing events involving violent assaults perpetrated by extremist Israeli settler groups. These attacks have left numerous Palestinian homes and vehicles engulfed in flames, sparking a wave of apprehension within the Palestinian community.

Smotrich, leader of the far-right Religious Zionism party, said that “The IDF must go on the offensive in the West Bank and restore deterrence and security, while we work to intensify construction and the strengthening of settlements in the area.”

Earlier this year, Smotrich ignited widespread outrage, both domestically and internationally, when he advocated for the demolition of Huwara. His remarks came in the aftermath of extremist settlers running rampant through the village, inflicting property damage, terrorizing inhabitants, and tragically resulting in the death of a Palestinian man. This incident followed a shooting attack that claimed the lives of two Israeli settlers.

In March, following the attack, Smotrich stated, “The village of Huwara needs to be wiped out. I think the State of Israel should do.” Subsequently, Smotrich endeavored to retract his statement.

Notably, Smotrich, who leads the Religious Zionism party, also holds a ministerial role within the Israeli Defense Ministry, overseeing the authorization of settlement construction and Palestinian home demolitions across substantial portions of the West Bank. This jurisdiction encompasses significant segments of Huwara, where approximately 7,000 Palestinians reside.

Reports have emerged suggesting that Smotrich is actively promoting a proposal to legitimize 155 illegal outposts spread throughout the West Bank.

Orit Strock, Minister of Settlements from Smotrich’s Religious Zionism party, emphasized that the incident should serve as a lesson not solely for the attacker, but for Palestinians as a whole.

Critics, including Merav Michaeli, leader of the center-left Labor party and part of the Israeli opposition, have censured the far-right government for the escalation of attacks this year. Michaeli said, “At every terror attack that occurred on the watch of the previous government, this government’s members came to the scene of the attack in order to dance on the blood of the victims.” The Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, then an opposition legislator, was a frequent presence at the sites of shooting incidents during that period.

“They came to the scene of the murder together with a cheerleading squad, sang and screamed with megaphones at the previous governments’ ministers.”

The occupied West Bank has witnessed a surge of Israeli attacks and raids on Palestinian cities and villages, resulting in the death of at least 220 Palestinians by Israeli fire since the start of 2023.

The Israeli occupation forces has been conducting near-nightly operations in the West Bank, claiming to “target suspected Palestinian militants and prevent attacks against Israelis.” However, many of the raids have targeted civilians, including children, women, and elderly people, who have been shot, beaten, arrested, or harassed by Israeli forces and settlers.

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