Israel gives extremist settler ‘absolute’ control of occupied West Bank

The new head of the army’s Central Command has overseen several major army major operations and stood by as settlers carried out pogroms in the occupied West Bank

Brigadier General Avi Bluth, an extremist religious settler, has been appointed to the position of Central Command commander of the Israeli army, Israeli media reported on 2 May.

Bluth has previously served as commander of the Army’s Judea and Samaria Division and as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Military Secretary.

According to Muhammad Shehada of Euro Med Human Rights, Bluth will now have absolute powers over the West Bank, including the ability to demolish homes and conduct army raids.

Bluth contributed to pogroms against Palestinians in the towns of Huwara and Burqa by standing by as Jewish settlers lynched civilians and burned and destroyed homes, shops, and vehicles.

He also played a role in incorporating extremists from a religious settler group called the Hilltop Youth into units of the Israeli army.

Bluth pushed for Operation Break the Wave in 2022, in which the army killed 149 Palestinians in the West Bank and abducted 2000 others in a series of raids, and Operation Bayit Vagan in July 2023, in which the army carried out a massive assault on Jenin, killing 12 Palestinians and leaving widespread destruction in its wake.

Bluth is a signatory to the army’s 2015 policy change, which loosened the conditions for using live fire against Palestinians throwing stones and carrying out ramming operations.

Shehada adds that Bluth has links to the Religious Zionism Party led by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, which is committed to stealing and annexing Palestinian land in the West Bank.

Bluth was raised in Neve Tzuf, an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank. He earned a BS in philosophy, economy, and political science from Hebrew University and an MA in strategic thinking from the US Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

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