Israeli protesters blocked West Bank roads, stoned Palestinian vehicles and set fire to Palestinian-owned fields after a 31 year-old father of five was stabbed to death as he waited at a bus stop used by Israelis and Palestinians near an Israeli settlement early this morning.
Evyatar Borowski, a popular local actor who was studying to be a medical clown, died before medics could arrive after Salam Zaghal, 24, a Palestinian from a village near Tulkarm, drew a large knife and stabbed him. Eyewitnesses said Zaghal grabbed Borowski’s pistol and started shooting at nearby Israeli border police. Zaghal was wounded in the ensuing firefight and arrested.
Mr Borowski was the first Israeli to die in a West Bank attack since 2011. “He was not afraid to live in this area despite my efforts to dissuade him from living there,” his father told Israel Army Radio.
Hours later, Israeli soldiers raided Zaghal’s home in the village of Shucha. He was released from an Israeli jail six months ago after a three-year sentence for stone-throwing. His brother was jailed by the Palestinian Authority yesterday, accused of collaborating with Israel. One theory is that he carried out the attack to distance the family from his brother.
The al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the militant wing of President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, said it carried out the attack in revenge for the recent deaths of two Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
“With dignity and honour and profound respect, the al-Aqsa Brigades in Palestine declares its full responsibility for the killing of the settler in the heroic operation… this morning carried out by the liberated prisoner, the hero, Salam Asa’ad Zaghal,” the statement declared.
“The Martyrs’ Brigades have received a green light to carry out a series of quality operations against the occupation and give these operations as a gift to all prisoners in the occupation prisons.”
Dozens of settlers attacked Palestinian cars and property in the West Bank in protest at the stabbing. Settlers from Yitzhar, where Mr Borowski lived, were reported to have smashed the window of a mosque in the nearby village of Urif and attempted to burn it down. The windshield of a bus carrying a group of Palestinian schoolgirls was shattered by stone-throwers, injuring the driver. Israeli firefighters struggled to control a series of fires after fields in Palestinian villages were set ablaze. A group of teenage girls were arrested after they blocked a road to stop Palestinian traffic.
Settler leaders said the attack resulted from lenient policies towards Palestinian stone-throwers and called on Israeli leaders to protect them.
“The terror attack this morning is a direct continuation of the incitement within the Palestinian Authority and the forgiving attitude toward rock-throwing attacks,” said Avi Roeh, chairman of the Yesha Council of Israeli settlers in the West Bank. “All the talk about 'goodwill gestures' and the release of prisoners is also motivating the murderers.”