Israeli settler violence against Palestinians in the North and South West Bank increased in March and April 2011. The brutal aggressions against lands, homes and residents are part of an obvious systematic project to render the life of Palestinian residents virtually impossible.
Residents of the northern West Bank village of Awarta suffered from numerous settler attacks during this period
Settlers announced their “price tag” plan after the Israeli army dismantled mobile homes in some West Bank outposts and settlements. This “price tag” strategy is carried out through land confiscations, physical attacks using stones, guns and knives, the uprooting of olive trees and attacks on homes.
In most of the settler attacks in March and April 2011, the connection between settlers and Israeli soldiers is evident. The army collaborates with the violent settler aggression against Palestinian residents; proof of this link includes military harassments against Palestinian farmers and residents who are trying to defend their villages and lands against settler attacks.
Both in the northern and southern West Bank, the army intervenes to facilitate settler violence, instead of stopping it. Soldiers are involved in cruel episodes of violence, arresting Palestinians who denounce settler aggressions or even pushing them out of their own lands. Police officers and military officials often deny Palestinian complaints against settlers: As commander of the Israeli military police, Meir Ohana, admitted last month, only 6-9% of complaints by Palestinian residents are taken into consideration. The rest are totally ignored, and hundreds of cases of abuse and attacks are closed.
Hebron and the Southern West Bank Region
On March 2, settlers from settlements in the eastern Bethlehem area uprooted 25 olive trees belonging to residents of the Al-Frides village. According to eyewitnesses from the village, the settlers uprooted the trees in full sight of the soldiers, who did nothing to stop them. Olive trees in this area had been targeted numerous times before by the settlers.
On March 5, dozens of settlers from the downtown Hebron outposts celebrated in the streets, simultaneously stoning many shops and houses. The Palestinians closed their shops and ran away to avoid the settler attacks. The soldiers accompanying the settlers didn’t stop them; on the contrary, they stopped numerous Palestinians in the streets and checked their identity cards, all the while settlers from Beit Hadasa stoned people walking near the settlement.
On March 19, farmer Fadil Ahmed Raba’e, 55 years old from the Litwani village in the South Hebron Hills, was injured when settlers from the nearby Ma’on settlement attacked him and his family while they were working their land. Additional farmers were also targeted by settlers at this time. When the Israeli soldiers finally arrived, instead of stopping the settlers they attacked the farmers and arrested Husain Fadil Al Huriani, 17 years old, and Amjad Mosa Raba’ee, 28 years old. The soldiers beat them using their fists and rifle butts. On the same day, settlers from Susiya allowed 500 goats to enter Palestinian land planted with wheat, and the crops were damaged.
On March 21, Mahmoud Ibraheem Ali Awad, 32 years old from Yatta, a town to the south-east of Hebron, was injured when settlers from the Ma’on settlement stabbed him in the chest with a knife. The attack happened in the morning while he was walking on the main road to work. Awad was taken to a Hebron hospital and his condition was described as stable.
On March 21 at noon, settlers from the Givat Kharsina settlement to the north-east of Hebron stoned Palestinians houses to the West of the settlement, in addition to stoning a car belonging to the Sultan family, damaging its windows.
On March 21 in the afternoon, settlers opened fire on Palestinians from the Beit Ummar village, North of Hebron, while the residents were participating in a funeral in the cemetery located adjacent to the main road East of the village. The attacks injured two residents: Mohammed Ali Mahmoud Abo Safiya, 59 years old, was shot by a live bullet in his chest and he later died, and Iyad Bassam Khaleel Al-Za’aqeeq, 32 years old, was shot in his right leg. Both of them were taken to the Al-Ahali Hospital in Hebron. Mohammed Ali died three hours later. When Palestinians protested these injuries, soldiers shot tear gas and rubber bullets at them.
On March 28 some 20 settlers, several of them armed, attacked farmers in the area of Al-Bowaib in the South Hebron Hills. Rateb Jobour, Director of the Popular Committees against the Settlements, reported that “the settlers came with soldiers and policemen and entered the area, stoning farmers and their goats. The settlers told the farmers to leave and not return, otherwise they would shoot the goats”. Such attacks by settlers in this area are well-known and common: Settler violence happens often in order to confiscate land for the settlement project.
On March 31 at noon, Lana Al-Ja’bari, 3 years old, was injured in a car accident provoked by a settler who subsequently ran away without providing her with assistance. Israeli soldiers came and recorded the event. Lana was taken to the local hospital and her condition was described as stable. This event happened near the Ibrahim Mosque.
On April 1, settlers from the Beit Hadasa outpost in downtown Hebron burned canvas that people hung to protect them from sun and rain. Hebron Municipality fire brigades came and extinguished the fire. The Hebron-based group Youth against Settlements published a statement condemning this aggression.
On April 6, five settlers came with their dogs to the Palestinian kindergarten located near the Ibrahim Mosque and threatened the children by allowing the dogs to try and attack them. The children were very afraid and when the Palestinian Red Crescent Society came to help, the soldiers of the nearby checkpoint stopped the doctors, claiming they couldn’t open the iron gate for the cars because the electricity was cut. The group was then forced to walk. According to Naser Karaja from the Red Crescent, they found the children fearful and crying.
On April 12, settlers from the outposts in downtown Hebron entered the Islamic cemetery and wrote racist words in Hebrew on the tombs, including “death to Arabs” and “go away, this is our city”.
On April 16, a group of settlers from the outpost of Beit Hadasa in downtown Hebron stoned the home of the Al-Muhtaseb family, located near the outpost. When family members tried to defend themselves, soldiers who were already in the nearby military center detained Mo’taz Al-Muhtaseb, 13 year old, for two hours, according to Youth against Settlement. Such a policy by soldiers illustrates the ongoing cooperation between the army and settlers.
On April 24, settlers from Kfar Itzion opened the settlement’s sewage pipes on Palestinian agricultural land in Wadi Shukhait, belonging to numerous families from the village of Beit Ummar. The sewage subsequently covered around 10 dunams of land planted with grapes. According to the spokesperson of the Palestinian Solidarity Project, Yousef Abu Mariyya, this land has been targeted many times by untreated sewage, the last time being 20 March. “Very often we face this aggression from the settlers and many times we notified the Israeli police, but they didn’t do anything to stop it”. The untreated sewage damages trees and vines over time. Tens of trees were damaged in the last year because of the settlement sewage.
Nablus and North of West Bank Region
On March 3, settlers from Nahaliel near the village of Beit Ello to the West of Ramallah burned a car belonging to a resident of the village. Municipality Manager Mohammed Radwan, reported that “dozens of settlers came to the village in the early morning hours and burned a car belonging to Hani Saleh Bazzar from the village. When the residents discovered the presence of settlers in their village they gathered and faced them, after which the settlers escaped to the nearby settlement of Nahaliel.” He added that this is not the first time settlers are involved in attacks against the village: some weeks prior, settlers wrote racist slogans on the village walls and pejorative words against the Prophet Mohammed. They also threw stones at the windows and some were broken. Eyewitnesses said that the settler attacks against the village of Beit Ello generally focus on and target the area of Al Daher, which is close to the settlement and where 1000 Palestinians live.
On March 4, settlers from Shvut Rachel in the southeast Nablus District damaged around 500 olive trees belonging to families from the village of Sorra. According to the Palestinian settlement file office in the northern West Bank, “the settlers attacked in the early morning hours, damaging and uprooting about 500 olive trees. Some of the settlers also entered the village and stoned homes”. These attacks are part of the settlers’ “price tag” plan, announced against Palestinians in the West Bank. The plan was ostensibly launched because the Israeli army dismantled several mobile houses in some outposts and settlements in West Bank, including the outpost of Giv’at Gil’ad in the North.
On March 5, around 100 settlers from Halamish in the western Ramallah district gathered and went to the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh. The settlers, some of them armed, tried to enter the village and physical fights took place between the residents, who were defending their village, and the settlers. The soldiers came later and shot tear gas at the Palestinians and prevented the settlers from entering the village. The settlers came in numerous cars and buses, but local residents blocked the village entrances with large stones.
On March 7, three villagers from Qasra in the southern Nablus district were injured when settlers entered the village in the afternoon and stoned residents and homes in the village. The settlers involved in the attack arrived in three cars. The injured are Hasan Ibraheem Yousef, Ribhi Azmi and Othman Mohammed Khriwesh, who were taken to the Rafidia Hospital in Nablus.
On March 10 in the afternoon, dozens of settlers, some of them armed, from Tapuach in the Nablus district entered the village of Yasouf. The villagers faced them and physical fights ensued until Israeli soldiers arrived. Instead of stopping the settlers, however, soldiers shot tear-gas and sound bombs at the Palestinians. This incident continued for one hour.
On March 12, following the end of the Jewish Sabbath, settlers conducted numerous attacks against Palestinians villages in most districts of West Bank, although primarily in the North. These attacks were in response to the murder of five settlers in Itamar on the previous day. In the Bethlehem district, two Palestinians were injured when 200 settlers stoned cars on the main junction of Kfar Etizion. The injured are from Abu Aker family and their car was stoned while they were travelling from Hebron to Bethlehem in the evening and the driver Nidal Abu Aker was seriously injured in his head and was taken to a Bethlehem hospital. Mohammed Khaleel Abu Aker was also injured from stones hitting his head.
Other settlers simultaneously stoned many houses in the Alroub Camp and Beit Ummar. The soldiers, who came with settlers, shot tear-gas and sound bombs against the residents who tried to defend themselves and their homes.
Another group of settlers attacked homes close to the bypass road to the East of Halhol. The house of Abed Alrahman Fathi Karaja was targeted and windows broken. Settlers also broke the windows of his car while it was parked in front of the house. The car belonging to Ibraheem Saraheen was also stoned and its windows were broken. The army closed the road and prevented Palestinians from using it.
In Ramallah dozens of settlers attacked houses in the Nabi Saleh village, gathering at the main entrance of the village and closing it. In the northern West Bank, groups of settlers gathered on the main junctions between Ramallah and the North and stoned many cars. Around 100 settlers, many of them armed, attacked the village of Hawwarah in the southern Nablus district and stoned houses, breaking many windows. The residents tried to defend their homes but Israeli soldiers imposed a curfew on the village and shot sound bombs, tear-gas and live bullets. Such aggressions continued for three days in all West Bank areas.
In the Nablus area village of Qasra on March 14, Palestinians cars were burned and damaged when dozens of settlers attacked the village in the evening. Most of the houses located in the northern part of the village were stoned and some residents injured. In the evening of March 13, groups of settlers attacked shops and houses near the main road in Beit Ommar, damaging the flower shop belonging to Shihada Alami while stealing plants from it. At the same time, some cars were stoned in the same place and their windows broken. The cars belong to Abed Al-Hameed Mahmoud Alami and Mohammed Alami. In Hebron in the evening of March 14, hundreds of settlers from Kiryat Arba and the outposts in the city conducted large demonstrations and marches through the the city. The Israeli army closed entrances and prevented Palestinians from moving.
In the evening of March 14, more than one hundred settlers from Itamar attacked houses in the Awarta village, located South of Nablus. Settlers stoned houses and cars in the village streets. Houses of the Qawareeq and Falih families were targeted and some windows were broken.
On March 15, the settlers from Itamar brought four mobile houses (caravans) to land belonging to families from the Awarta village. At the same time, other settlers leveled and damaged around 20 dunams of land near the village of Yanoon, South of Nablus. The Local Council Chairman Rashed Morrar said that “since the morning the settlers started leveling the land and building green houses on it”. The land is located to the northeast of the village.
On the evening of March 16, the settlers stoned an ambulance of the Union of Health Work Committees (UHWC). The event happened on the main road near the Hawwara checkpoint to the South of Nablus. Faras Khader, director of the emergency section of the UHWC, reported that the ambulance was stoned while two patients were inside and on their way to Nablus hospitals. He added that the settlers stopped the ambulance in full sight of the soldiers, who did nothing to stop this.
On March 17, 33 year old Sami Sonober from the northern West Bank village of Yetma, was injured when settlers attacked him with a knife. He reported that six armed settlers attacked him while he was working in the settlement of Shilo, to the North of Ramallah. Sami was taken to the Ramallah Hospital and his condition was described as stable. He was also injured in the head, back and waist. The Israeli police documented the event and interviewed him before he was taken out of the settlement.
On March 18, a group of settlers gathered at noon on the Za’tara Road Junction, East of Salfeet, and threw stones at the Palestinian cars on the road. Fath Allah Isa Boziah, 45 year old from the village of Hares, was injured from glass when the settlers broke the windows of his car. The event happened in full sight of the Israeli soldiers who were on the checkpoint close to the settlers. When he approached the soldiers to tell them what happened, they ordered him to leave the area immediately.
On March 19, Mahmoud Rashad Hasan Atalah, 30 years old from Tulkarem, was injured in his head and chest when settlers from Yitzhar stoned his car while he was traveling on the main road close to the settlement. He was taken to the Rafidia Hospital in Nablus by an ambulance of Palestinian Red Crescent Society.
On March 23, settlers from Itamar damaged and uprooted 300 olive trees in the village of Aqraba. The trees were planted two months previously by the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) in West Bank. UAWC Project Director Sa’ada Abo Shaikha,reported that the trees were planted to improve and develop the agricultural land in Palestine.
On March 24, settlers from Maskiyot in the northern valleys built a tent on land belonging to Nabeel Daraghma from the Ain el-Hulwa village and raised the Israeli flag on it. The settlers were accompanied by soldiers. When Daraghma came to protest, the soldiers ordered him to go home; this is yet more proof of the cooperation between soldiers and settlers. One day later the settlers had already fenced the land around the tent.
On April 3, a group of settlers from Ma’ale Efraim in the southern Nablus district attacked Imad Yousef Salahat, 47 years old, with stones and sticks. He was injured in his head and back and was taken to Rafidya Hospital in the city, where his condition was defined as stable. On the same day, a member of the Madama village Local Council reported that settlers from Yitzhar damaged water pipes serving the area of Ain Al-Sha’ra, in the South of the village. He added that these pipes were also damaged three weeks prior and the council had fixed them.
On April 9, the guard of the Nofim settlement in the western Salfeet district, stopped several farmers from the Diar Istia village while they were working their land in a site called Kherbit Shihada. Farmer Samih Salman, 45 years old, reported: “While I was working in my land, the guard of the settlement came in his jeep: we know this jeep is for the security of the settlement and the word “security” in Hebrew is written on it. He asked me to give him my identity card and he did the same with other farmers in the area. One hour later he gave them back to us and told us to leave the area, otherwise we would be arrested. He ordered us not to come again.”
In the morning of April 9 dozens of settlers from Yitzhar burned a car belonging to Ali Hasan from the Asera El-Qibliyya village in the southern Nablus district. This happened during settler attacks against the eastern section of the village.
On April 11, settlers from Rotem in the northern valleys continued to plant trees in the land they recently confiscated from the village of Al-Maleh. The Local Council Chairman of the village, Aref Daraghma, said “the land that was targeted belongs to farmers from the village and other villages in the area called Ain AlBaida. The land was confiscated although the owners proved their ownership through documents given by the Israeli side”. He added that “the policy of taking over land in the area has been going on intensively in the last years”.
In the morning hours of April 21, ten settlers from Yakir in the northern West Bank attacked farmers working the land in the Ain El-Bassa area of the Dair Istia village. The settlers stoned the farmers, forcing them to leave the place with threats of armed violence. The Mayor of the village, Nazmi Salman, reported that “the settlers from time to time attack farmers in this site: they want to take it over for the settlement project, and in recent years we raised many cases with the Israeli side but without positive response”. He added that this area is agricultural and rich with many water springs which help the farmers to get good crops. If the settlers continue in their aggressions and take over the land, the farmers from the village will lose one of their most important sources of income.