In 2020, Israeli security forces killed 27 Palestinians, seven of them minors. In at least 11 cases, the forces fired unlawfully at Palestinians who posed no risk. Despite the pandemic, Israel ramped up demolitions in the West Bank, leaving 1,006 Palestinians, including 519 minors, homeless. This year, we documented 248 cases of settlers harming Palestinians or their property –with full state backing. This year, too, Palestinians were subjected to a daily, violent occupation routine of incursions, night raids, movement restrictions, and arrests.
This olive harvest, in October and November, B’Tselem documented 39 incidents in which settlers attacked Palestinian harvesters, barred them from reaching their groves, stole crops, and damaged trees and equipment throughout the West Bank. This could not take place without systemic state support, including soldiers escorting the assailants and sometimes even participating in the attacks, and lack of accountability. This reality will persist as long as it serves Israel’s policy of dispossessing Palestinians to take over West Bank land.
On 9 Oct. 2020, settlers attacked a home in Burin. Soldiers enabled the assault and fired tear gas and stun grenades at residents who came to the family’s defense. Two settlement security coordinators entered the village in their jeeps and chased four residents. When a young man passed by in his car, one of them attacked him, handcuffed him and “turned him in” to the soldiers.
On 9-10 Oct. 2020, settlers attacked homes in the village of Burin. Soldiers enabled the assault and fired tear gas and stun grenades at residents who came to their neighbors’ defense. A 7-year-old fainted after inhaling the gas. These incidents are part of a violent reality in which settlers and soldiers join forces to attack Palestinians and their property. The Israeli law enforcement system backs them , ensuring the culprits will not be held accountable and allowing such attacks to recur in order to further its unlawful goals.
On 26 Sep. 2020, settlers stoned a family working its land near the village of Qusrah and vandalized 12 olive trees belonging to another family. They stoned two chicken coops on the outskirts of the village, damaged water container s and pipes – causing the death of over 300 chickens and chicks – and tried unsuccessfully to torch a tractor and a truck. They were accompanied by soldiers who fired tear gas and rubber-coated metal bullets at villagers who tried to help the victims. Israel routinely backs such violence to further its policy goals.
On the evening of 3 Sept. 2020, dozens of settlers blocked a lane on Route 60 near the settlement of Eli. They threw stones at passing Palestinian cars, hitting several passengers, and tried to block their way. Testimonies given to B’Tselem indicate that soldiers who came to the area did nothing to stop the settlers or protect the passengers. Israeli policy has enabled routine violence of this kind by settlers and the military against Palestinians in the West Bank for many years.
In August 2020, settlers attacked homes and property in ‘Asirah al-Qibliyah several times, escorted by soldiers who did nothing to protect the Palestinians. Residents of the village, surrounded by settlements, have been suffering from repeated settler assaults for years. Among many occurring throughout the West Bank, these attacks form part of an established Israeli policy that does not deem settler violence against Palestinians as criminal or illegitimate acts. Instead, Israel gives settlers near-full backing, as they serve its purposes.
State-backed settler violence against Palestinians has become a routine part of the occupation. In two cases documented in March and April, settlers not only harmed Palestinians and their property but claimed the victims had been the ones to attack them. Settlers are backed by the military and receive nearly automatic impunity, while Palestinians are guilty until proven innocent. If a settler files a report against a Palestinian, the latter is immediately arrested and given high bail for conditional release – even when there is no evidence.
Since the start of the corona crisis, Israeli settlers have ramped up attacks against Palestinians throughout the West Bank, with full state backing. The attacks have increased despite the movement restrictions, lockdowns and social distancing measures introduced to battle the pandemic. During the first three weeks of this month (through 22 April), B’Tselem documented 23 settler attacks against Palestinians. In all of March, 23 incidents were documented, 11 of them after the severe restrictions on movement and social gatherings were imposed (mid-March).
While millions of people in Israel and the West Bank are under lockdown, state-backed settler violence continues unabated. Settlers are attacking Palestinian shepherds in pastureland and entering villages, attacking residents and destroying their property. Despite the coronavirus crisis, the escalated violence has continued in recent weeks. On 7 March 2020, neighboring villages Burin and Madama, which suffer frequent attacks, were both attacked within one hour.
Israel’s regime of occupation is inextricably bound up in human rights violations. B’Tselem strives to end the occupation, as that is the only way forward to a future in which human rights, democracy, liberty and equality are ensured to all people, both Palestinian and Israeli, living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.