Jewish settlers in the West Bank threw stones at the armored cars of two U.S. consular officials Friday, according to several reports. During a tense standoff, the diplomats’ security guards reportedly drew their weapons. The U.S. State Department has not yet made a statement about the incident.
The confrontation came at a time when relations between the U.S. and Israel are tense. The incident occurred near the Adei Ad outpost in the West Bank. Some countries have criticized Israel for creating settlements in that area because it has been considered a location suitable for incorporation into a Palestinian state. Among these countries, the U.S. has expressly panned the expansion of these settlements, as reported by the Jerusalem Post.
The confrontation Friday was the most violent clash between Israeli settlers and American officials in recent memory. The Americans were visiting the area after a group of Palestinians complained that Israeli settlers had uprooted 5,000 olive saplings that had been planted in a disputed area, the Guardian reported.
A group of Jewish residents confronted the American diplomats and began throwing stones at their vehicles, according to Reuters. It was then that the security guards produced weapons and pointed them at the settlers, residents told the news agency. “One had a pistol, the other an M-16, and they pointed them at the settlers,” one of them said.
An Israeli police representative, Micky Rosenfeld, told the Associated Press that a small group of settlers were responsible for the stones and that the U.S. diplomats left quickly afterward. He said police were investigating the matter and that he wasn’t aware of American security guards producing weapons.
The American officials traveled to the area without coordinating with Israeli officials, Haaretz reported. The incident occurred in the same area where Palestinian Minister Ziad Abu Ein died during a protest over the use of agriculture lands last month.