US condemns Israeli settlers’ killing of Palestinian as terrorism

The US State Department has condemned as terrorism the killing of a Palestinian by suspected Jewish settlers, in sharpened language that appeared to reflect Washington’s frustration with surging violence in the occupied West Bank under Israel’s hard-right government.

“We strongly condemn yesterday’s terror attack by Israeli extremist settlers that killed a 19-year old Palestinian,” the State Department said in a statement, urging “full accountability and justice.”

Israeli police detained two settlers in Friday’s incident near Burqa village were part of a group that threw rocks, torched cars and, when confronted by villagers, shot a 19-year-old dead and wounded several others.

Initial findings by Israel’s military cast the incident as a confrontation that escalated, with casualties on both sides.

The State Department statement on Burqa was issued back-to-back with a statement condemning as terrorism a Palestinian gun attack that killed a security officer in Tel Aviv.

Amid increased attacks on their communities by people armed with guns, rocks or firebombs, settlers have repeatedly rampaged in West Bank villages, causing extensive property damage.

Among their victims have been Palestinians with US dual citizenship.

The US reaction came as Israeli forces on Sunday killed three Palestinians in the West Bank.

Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad vowed to respond to the latest deaths.

“Our Palestinian people and their courageous resistance will not let the occupation’s aggression pass without a price,” said Hamas in a separate statement.

Democrats set visit

Amid the worsening violence, two dozen Democrats of the US House of Representatives will visit Israel and the occupied West Bank this week to discuss prospects for a two-state solution and Israel’s judicial reforms, among other issues.

Top House Democrat Hakeem Jeffries and Representative Steny Hoyer will lead a group of 24 House Democrats, who will also discuss extremism and Iran’s nuclear capabilities, Jeffries’ office said in a statement on Sunday.

Democratic President Joe Biden has supported a two-state solution to the Israeli conflict with Palestinians.

Democrats are in the minority in the House and hold the majority in the US Senate.

“While in Israel and the West Bank, the Members will hold high-level meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, meet with various activists and stakeholders and spend meaningful time in areas important to the security of the region,” the statement said.

The West Bank is among areas where Palestinians seek statehood. US-mediated negotiations with Israel to that end stalled almost a decade ago, boosting hard-liners on both sides.

The visit by the US Democratic delegation comes amid worsening violence in the West Bank since last year, with more Israeli raids and Palestinian street attacks on Israelis.

The United States recently expressed frustration with the surging violence under Israel’s hard-right government.

Israeli security forces shot dead three Palestinian militants in the West Bank on Sunday, Israeli police said, drawing threats of revenge by Palestinian militant factions.

Jeffries’ office said the Democratic delegation will also focus attention on the ongoing judicial reform debate in Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his hard-right coalition have undertaken a judicial overhaul that will potentially curtail the Supreme Court’s powers, triggering nationwide protests and international criticism.

Proponents say the step will restore balance to the branches of government, while those against say it removes checks on government powers.