On the morning of 6 March 2018, at around 7:00 A.M., Palestinian bulldozer operator ‘Ahed Hamad (21) went to land in the northern part of the village of ‘Einabus to pave a road that would help residents get to their farmland. He was joined about an hour later by Yasser Hamad (22), who came to help him.
At around 9:30 A.M., about thirty settlers, some of them masked, arrived from the direction of the Yitzhar settlement, located about four kilometers away. As they came down the other side of the hill, the two men noticed them only once they had drawn near. The settlers surrounded the bulldozer and began throwing stones at it, breaking the windshield. The two men tried to escape, but some of the settlers pursued them, throwing stones and hitting them, until they managed to escape into the village. The settlers who remained near the bulldozer threw stones and sticks at it and slashed its tires. After ‘Ahed and Yasser managed to escape to the village, the settlers left the scene and headed back towards Yitzhar.
Yasser Hamad described the incident in a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i the next day:
On Tuesday, 6 March 2018, at around 8:00 A.M., I went to the area of al-Khallah in northern ‘Einabus to help a friend of mine, ‘Ahed, pave a road about two kilometers long for the villagers to access their land. It was ‘Ahed’s third day working on the road. I joined him every day, to help him and also to spend time with him, because I was off work. I sat next to him in the bulldozer and we chatted as we worked.
At around 9:30 A.M., we were sitting in the bulldozer and suddenly I heard people talking and running. I couldn’t see anything ahead, so I turned around to look behind us and saw about thirty settlers with wooden sticks, knives and slingshots about 10-15 meters away. Some of them had their shirts over their faces. My first thought was that we had to run away, but we didn’t have time because they already had us surrounded and started throwing stones at us. They broke the side windshield. ‘Ahed got down and started running away, and I ran after him. One of the settlers hit me in the back with a stick. I fell down but jumped back up and kept running. We didn’t have time to think, because we were afraid they would stab us if we stopped. The settlers chased us for a few meters, but when we passed the trees at the entrance to ‘Einabus we felt safe and stopped. I couldn’t run anymore, because one of the stones hit me in the left leg and it hurt a lot.
In his testimony, also given the day after the incident, ‘Ahed Hamad related his experience:
The settlers threw stones at the bulldozer. One of them broke the right windshield and fell between my feet. I tried to drive away but they had us surrounded. I was afraid I’d run them over, so I got down and ran away. Yasser and I ran towards the village houses. Some of the stones they threw hit me, and I heard them wrecking the bulldozer behind us. Some of them chased us with sticks and threw more stones at us. I got hit in the back by several stones and so did Yasser.
I stopped after about fifty meters and called my father, Taleb Hamad, who is also the chairman of the local council, and asked him to get help. They slashed the tires with knives. At least four of them were carrying knives or large sharp objects. They also opened the engine hood and pulled out wires. Then they headed back towards Yitzhar.
After his son’s phone call, Taleb Hamad rallied residents on the village loudspeaker system to go to the land the settlers had entered. Within about ten minutes, some fifty residents had gathered there. The settlers returned in larger numbers, accompanied by soldiers, and a confrontation developed in which village residents and settlers threw stones at each other. The soldiers fired live bullets, rubber-coated metal bullets and teargas to disperse the residents. The clashes lasted about half an hour, with six village residents injured by rubber-coated metal bullets fired by the soldiers and stones thrown by the settlers. Four were taken to Rafidiya Hospital in Nablus, of which two were discharged after examination and two were kept in hospital overnight.
‘Ahed Hamad described the development:
About fifteen minutes later, my father arrived with people from the village. After a few more minutes, the attack was announced on the village loudspeakers and residents were called to come and protect their children and property. Within about ten minutes, another fifty or so residents arrived. Meanwhile, dozens of settlers came back to the bulldozer together with about seven soldiers, who guarded them while they threw stones at us. The soldiers fired live bullets, “rubber” bullets and teargas and hit a few of us. Some other residents were hit by stones that the settlers threw.
Among the injured residents was Zafer Rayan (27), a shepherd who was attacked and beaten by settlers from Yitzhar about two months earlier, on 21 February 2018. Rayan, who came to the spot after he was notified by phone that settlers were attacking the village, was injured yet again, this time by stones to the head and face. He spent the night at Rafidiya Hospital and was discharged the next day.
In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i on 16 April 2018, he related what happened:
On Tuesday, 6 March 2018, at around 9:30, a village resident called me and said settlers were breaking my tractor. I got very angry and went to my livestock pen, which is about 200 meters from my house. I set up a guard post there after the settlers attacked me almost two months ago. When I got there, I saw my brother Baher (39), who had just arrived there. We didn’t see anyone else. I called my friends and they said the settlers were nearby and that it was ‘Ahed Hamad’s tractor, not mine. We drove there in a jeep with our brothers Bashir and Salah.
When we got there, we saw the settlers heading back towards Yitzhar and other village residents. We were about 600-800 meters away. Baher and I tried to film what was going on with our phones. I recognized one of the settlers, who attacked one of my sheep last time. I still haven’t heard from the police about that – they haven’t called me or come to ask questions about that assault, and they also didn’t take me to the settlement to identify the stolen sheep. They’ve done nothing, but keep saying my case is being handled. That’s why I thought I should film the attack, by the same settlers, so that we can prove that we can identify them.
We got closer to them in order to film them and then they turned back in our direction. They started throwing stones at us, with slingshots too. There were about six to eight soldiers with them. I saw one soldier point his rifle at my brother Bashir. I turned towards Bashir to warn him and just then, a stone hit me in the face, above my lip. I started bleeding and put my hand on the spot, and then another stone hit me in the head and I fell down. I blacked out for a short while and when I came to, I managed to escape with the help of some people from the village. My brother Salah drove me, Baher and Bashir to Rafidiya Hospital in Nablus, were they checked us and took X-rays. They kept Bashir and me for observation overnight. He was hit in the chest by a “rubber” bullet. I didn’t file a complaint because I’m sick of filing useless complaints.
Yasser Hamad, who was injured in the leg by a stone thrown by the settlers, was examined in hospital and discharged with painkillers and instructions not to strain his leg for ten days.
On the day of the attack, ‘Ahed Hamad took the bulldozer to be fixed and was told it would cost approximately 20,000 shekels (~5,540 USD). He and Yasser Hamad then filed a complaint about the assault with the Palestinian DCO in Huwara. Past experience indicates that no one will be held accountable.
This incident is not unusual: settlers have attacked Palestinians in the presence of soldiers hundreds of time, with the soldiers sometimes – as in the present case – joining in the assault. Israel effectively condones this conduct and reaps the benefits: the Palestinian residents, who know they face a possible attack with no protection at any given time, hold back from going to their farmland – to tend the land or graze flocks – and this makes it easier for the state to take over the land.