Police have arrested six suspects over a far-right settler rampage in the occupied West Bank earlier this week that an Israeli general described as a “pogrom”.

The settlers attacked villages around the West Bank city of Nablus a few hours after a Palestinian gunman killed two Israeli brothers on Sunday as they were driving in the West Bank.

One Palestinian was killed by Israelis during the attack and at least 390 were injured, with Palestinian media reporting stabbings and attacks with metal rods and rocks.

Dozens of cars and homes were also set on fire by the settlers.

Israeli police said on Wednesday they expected to make more arrests during their ongoing investigation into the settler violence, which centred on the Palestinian village of Huwara, where the two Israeli brothers from a nearby settlement were shot dead.

Israeli media outlets had reported on Tuesday that only eight settlers had previously been arrested following the violence and that they had all been released.

Major-General Yehuda Fuchs, who commands the Israeli military in the area, defended his forces’ role in the violence, after Palestinians accused soldiers of standing by as the settlers attacked.

Fuchs called the incident a “pogrom” and said while his forces had prepared for settler attacks, they had been surprised by the intensity of the violence, which he said was perpetrated by dozens of people.

“The incident in Huwara was a pogrom carried out by outlaws,” Fuchs told N12 News late on Tuesday.

Political tensions

Fuchs’s comments came amid increased tensions within the far-right government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which includes hardline settlers demanding tough action against Palestinian attacks.

One of them, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, has called on people “not to take the law into their own hands”, while his Jewish Power party has accused Netanyahu of being weak on “terrorism”.

“This is not ‘taking the law into your own hands’ because lawful people don’t sow terror among the [civilian] population,” said Fuchs. “Collective punishment doesn’t help combating terrorism, on the contrary, it might even cause terrorism.”

However, Ben-Gvir himself had responded to the violence by holding a news conference at the illegal settlement outpost of Evytar, where he called for the outpost to be legalised.

Another member of the Jewish Power party, Zvika Fogel, appeared to welcome the settler attacks.

“A terrorist came out of Huwara – and Huwara was closed and burned,” Fogel said. “This is what I want to see. That’s the only way we’ll achieve deterrence.”

“After a murder like [Sunday’s], villages should burn when the IDF [Israeli army] does not act,” she added.

And on Wednesday, finance minister Bezalel Smotrich said that Huwara should be “wiped out”.

With the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Jewish Passover festival weeks away, foreign mediators have sought to tamp down tensions that have surged in the past year.

Israeli forces carried out three large-scale raids in Palestinian cities since Israel’s new government took office at the end of last year, including one in Nablus on February 22 that led to the largest Palestinian death toll in a single Israeli military operation since 2005.

Palestinian armed activity has also increased, with several groups emerging over the last year in the West Bank.

“I’m worried,” said US Ambassador Tom Nides at Tel Aviv University’s conference of the Institute for National Security Studies late on Tuesday.

“This is going to be a very complicated period of time we’re about to walk into, we’ve got to keep things as calm as possible to keep things from getting out of control, which could easily happen,” Nides said.