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From the field

25 Nov. '09: Two settlers charged with assaulting Palestinian shepherds in the southern Hebron hills

On 21 October 2009, the Prosecution Unit of the SHAI Police District filed an indictment against two settlers, accusing them of the aggravated assault of two Palestinian shepherds while they were grazing their sheep on their land next to Qawawis Village, in the southern Hebron hills, in June 2008. Next to the village's land, the Mitzpeh Ya'ir outpost had been built.

According to the indictment, on 24 June 2008, the settlers came from the outpost and called to the shepherds to leave the area. When one of the shepherds replied it was his land, one of the accused men took a pipe the shepherd was using to graze the sheep and hit him on the shoulder, back, and neck with it. The accused then threw stones at another shepherd, striking him in the stomach and face. The two accused young men, it is alleged, then unlawfully assaulted the shepherds, causing them serious injury.

Na’el Abu ‘Aram after the assault. Photo: Musa Abu Hashhash, B'Tselem
Na'el Abu ‘Aram after the assault. Photo: Musa Abu Hashhash, B'Tselem/>

As a result of the assault, Na'el Abu ‘Aram, 21, suffered a fractured cheekbone from a stone that struck him in the face. The other shepherd, Khaled Najar, 55, was beaten with a pipe, fracturing his ribs. The two shepherds were taken by ambulance to hospital. Policemen called to the scene by the settlers on grounds that the shepherds had attacked them took the testimony of Khaled Abu ‘Aram, the third shepherd and father of Na'ebl. The testimonies of the two injured shepherds were taken later.

Khaled a-Najar in hospital after the assault. Photo: Musa Abu Hashhash, B'Tselem
Khaled a-Najar in hospital after the assault. Photo: Musa Abu Hashhash, B'Tselem/>

B'Tselem welcomes the filing of the indictment, despite the delay, and is hopeful that the persons responsible for the assault will be brought to justice. The determined action of the authorities and the filing of an indictment in this case is unusual, and does not reflect the general practice, whereby the authorities do not enforce the law on settlers who harm Palestinians. The failure to deal with settler violence is seen in the lack of protection given to Palestinians, even when the authorities have advance knowledge that settlers intend to commit violent acts, and in the negligent investigation of the incidents. For these reasons, very few settlers have been prosecuted for assaulting Palestinians or for damaging Palestinian property compared to the number of violent acts perpetrated.