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From the field

Video: Military accompanies settler attack, ‘Urif, Monday. B’Tselem: Military appears to have served as security entourage for Hilltop Youth

On the morning of Monday 6 January 2014, a group of masked settlers, coming from the direction of the settlement of Yitzhar, arrived at the village of ‘Urif, near Nablus. They reached the eastern outskirts of the village, going to the construction site of a water reservoir being built with USAID funding. The settlers smashed the electricity meter and threw stones at the home of the Safadi family, adjacent to the construction site. They also threw stones at the school, located about 100 meters away. The settlers were accompanied by soldiers as well as by at least one armed settler equipped with a two-way radio, who is apparently one of the settlement’s security guards.

Usama Safadi, a local villager, filmed the incident and gave the footage to B’Tselem. The footage he shot shows settlers throwing stones, while soldiers stand beside them. The soldiers took no measures to arrest the settlers, to remove them from the area, or at the very least to put an end to the stone-throwing. Several students at the school threw stones back at the settlers and the soldiers fired teargas at the students. At that point, the teachers called the students into the school building to keep them away from the confrontation.

The incident lasted approximately 50 minutes, at which point the settlers left, heading in the direction of the settlement of Yitzhar. The footage of the settlers as they head up the hill shows them passing several vehicles parked on the slope: two military jeeps, a white jeep and a pickup truck, probably belonging to the settlement’s security personnel. Two of the settlers who took part in the assault are seen heading over to the security vehicle and one of them is then seen taking a jacket from the back of the pickup truck. Even at this point, there appears to be no attempt by the military to arrest the assailants, or even to learn their identity. Later, five soldiers are seen heading up from the village in the direction of the settlement.

The filmed record of the incident indicates that the soldiers acted with disregard to their duty to protect the Palestinians: they did not put an end to the violent acts they witnessed, responding only when Palestinians threw stones back at the settlers. The soldiers also do not seem to have made any attempt to identify the masked individuals or detain them until the police arrived on the scene, so they could be charged appropriately. To the best of B’Tselem’s knowledge, the soldiers did not provide the police with their own accounts of the incident.

The filmed record indicates that the military, which is required to defend Palestinians in the West Bank, in actual fact served as a security entourage for violent settlers. During the incident, the military backed the settlers in their assault on Palestinians and their property.

In light of the footage it received, B’Tselem plans to apply to the relevant authorities, demanding that an investigation of the incident be launched immediately. The investigation must examine the conduct of the soldiers and officers on-site during the incident, of the assailants and of the settlement’s security personnel. B’Tselem also plans to demand that all security forces serving on the ground be informed of their duty to protect the local Palestinian population and their property against such attacks.