‘Exterminate the beasts’: How Israeli settlers took revenge for a West Bank murder

At dawn on Friday, April 12, Israeli teenager Benjamin Achimeir left his settler post in the occupied West Bank with a flock of sheep and disappeared.

Achimeir, 14, had been living and working on a small farm near his family’s settlement, Malachei HaShalom, one of nearly 150 Israeli settlements in the West Bank considered illegal under international law.

The young teenager was killed that morning in the grass, according to Israeli police, but it would be 24 hours before his body was found. When the flock of sheep returned to the farm without him, a massive search began involving the police, army, air force, Israeli intelligence services and thousands of volunteers from the settler community.

For some, it wasn’t enough. At 08:30 on Saturday, Elisha Yered, former spokesperson for MP Limor Son Har-Melech and extremist settler suspected of the murder., external from a Palestinian last August, posted in a WhatsApp group for settlers.

“Shabbat Shalom, it has been almost 24 hours of strong suspicion that Benjamin was kidnapped from the pasture and no obvious action has yet been taken,” Yered wrote.

That morning the same message was posted in several settler WhatsApp groups. It asked them to take matters into their own hands: “coronation” of nearby Palestinian villages (a term for preventing residents from leaving or entering), “house-to-house searches” and “collective punishment against the murderous Arab population.”

The message also contained a list of meeting points. Hours later, a similar message would circulate among settler groups but with fire emojis attached to each location, as well as calls from individual settlers to “eliminate the enemy,” “exterminate the beasts,” and – referring to a nearby Palestinian village – “let the entire Duma burn.”

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