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The settlement of Adei Ad. Photo by Ahmad al-Baz, Activestills
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Al-Mughayir: 1 dead, 9 injured in armed settler rampage - with Israeli security forces present

חמדי נעסאן עם ילדיו. התמונה באדיבות המשפחה

Hamdi Na'asan with his children. Photo courtesy of the family

On Saturday, 26 January 2019, some 15 settlers armed with rifles, clubs, pipes and axes came to the area of al-Mughayir, a Palestinian village, from the direction of the Adei Ad settlement and attacked farmers working in their plots. They fired at the farmers and chased them up to the outskirts of the village. Several dozen village residents came and tried to ward off the settlers by throwing stones. In the meantime, another group of about 15 armed settlers arrived at the village. Some of them opened fire at residents, killing Hamdi Na’asan, a 38-year-old husband and father of two, who was hit in the back. Nine other residents were injured.

The residents notified the Israeli DCO while the incident was underway, but no measures were taken to assist them and end the attack. Worse still, throughout the incident, which lasted several hours, nearby Israeli security forces that were notified of the attack did nothing to stop the settlers reaching the village or opening fire, and did not arrest them once it was over. The forces drew closer only after residents began chasing the settlers, who retreated towards the settlement. At that point, the forces began firing tear gas, live rounds in the air and “rubber” bullets at the residents. One of the residents was injured in the head from a “rubber” bullet.

The village of al-Mughayir lies northeast of Ramallah and has a population of about 2,400. The settlement of Adei Ad was built about two kilometers north of the village in 1998, and since then, farmers from al-Mughayir and other neighboring villages have suffered from incessant harassment and violence, backed by the state. Yesh Din figures indicate that at least 51 settler attacks have taken place in farmlands belonging to Palestinian villages near Adei Ad and inside the villages themselves (al-Mughayir, Turmusaya, Jalud and Qaryut). These include physical violence, vandalism and the destruction of olive trees. On 31 July 2015, two settlers living in Adei Ad torched the home of the Dawabsheh family in the village of Duma, killing three family members, including a one-year-old.

The chain of events:

On Saturday, 26 January 2019, at around 8:00 A.M., four farmers from the village went to work in their orchards, located about a kilometer north of the village homes. A staffed military watchtower is located about 700 meters away from the orchards. At around 2:15 P.M., a group of about 15 masked settlers descended from a nearby hill, appearing to have arrived from the direction of Adei Ad, armed with pipes, clubs and axes. The four farmers fled toward the village, leaving behind a tractor with the key in the ignition switch. They stopped after about 200 meters. When the settlers arrived at the orchard, they broke some of the tractor windows, got in and drove about 200 meters toward the settlement, where they stopped, continued to vandalize the tractor, and then left the scene.

The farmers called Akram Na’asan, a village council member, who informed the Israeli DCO of the incident. A short while later, the farmers informed Na’asan that several settlers had returned to the area and opened fire at them. He called the liaison officer, who instructed him to wait for his arrival.

B’Tselem’s field researcher in the Ramallah area, Iyad Hadad, collected testimonies from Palestinian residents who had been present at the scene:

‘Awad Na’asan, 42, a husband and father of eight, was one of the four farmers. He described the shooting in a testimony he gave on 30 January 2019:

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‘Awad Na’asan. Photo courtesy of the witness

At around 2:45 P.M., two armed settlers, dressed in white, arrived from the north. At first, we thought they were settlement security guards who had come to check on what was going on. We’d heard that the police and some army or liaison people were supposed to arrive. At that point, a dark pick-up truck arrived and pulled over near the tractor, which was blocking the road. They were a few hundred meters away from us. The two settlers and several others who must have gotten out of the pick-up truck started shooting live rounds at us.

We ran towards the village. The settlers chased us, and kept shooting at us. The bullets hit the rocks, trees and fences around us. It was sheer luck that we came out of that alive. They kept chasing us until we got close to the village.

As the farmers neared the village, shortly after 3:00 P.M., about 30 residents came to fend off the settlers. Some threw stones at the settlers from a distance of several dozen meters. The settlers fired live rounds at them. At that point, another group of 10 to 15 settlers arrived, stopping at a distance of several dozen meters from the residents. Some of these settlers also shot at village residents. At 3:15 P.M., a 20-year-old from the village was wounded by the settlers’ gunfire and taken to hospital in Ramallah.

The settlers continued to shoot at the residents, who attempted to fend them off with stones, for about 90 minutes, on and off, until around 5:00 P.M. Nine more Palestinian residents were injured by live fire during that time. Soldiers arrived at a home located some 200 meters east of the area when the shooting began and remained on site for some time, but did nothing to stop the gunfire. Later, several soldiers fired tear gas at residents who threw stones at them from a distance of several dozen meters.

At around 4:30 P.M., three settlers flanked some of the residents who were throwing stones, took them by surprise and fired at them. They hit Hamdi Na’asan, 38, in the back. He died of his wounds shortly after.

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The tractor the settlers vandalized. Photo courtesy of village residents

J.N., a 52-year-old from the village, came to the scene of the clashes early on. In a testimony he gave on 29 January 2019, he described what took place:

I got there shortly after 3:00 P.M. I hid in the olive groves above Haj Musa’s house. Some youths had spread out in the grove too, and were throwing stones at the settlers. One of them, M., 20, fell down next to me. He’d been hit in the pelvis. We dragged him over to a car that was parked across from Musa’s house so we could drive him to the road, where an ambulance was waiting.

As soon as we evacuated him, I went back to where the clashes were taking place. In the meantime, another 20-year-old was hurt in another spot, an uncultivated area near Musa’s house. I got to him with two other people, and we dragged him over to another car that was parked about 50 to 70 meters away from Musa’s house.

I returned to the scene again. The clashes went on. I saw more and more people get hit and fall down. I stood on a high stone wall and noticed three settlers creeping quietly up to people from the village down below, on the right. I tried to warn the youths and shouted: “Watch out, friends, these guys want to kill someone.”

As soon as the words were out of my mouth, people started dropping one by one. M.A., 55, was hit in the thigh. ‘Adel Abu 'Aliyah, 56, was hit in the shoulder. We evacuated them, and as we were taking ‘Adel away, he said: “Go see Hamdi. He’s behind me”. We went back. I hadn’t noticed that Hamdi was hurt. In the meantime, the settlers moved away a bit, up the hill, and then the young guys were able to go over to Hamdi and take him to a car that was near Musa’s house. At first, I didn’t think his injury was that serious, but it turned out later he was in critical condition.

In a testimony given on 29 January 2019, ‘Adel Abu ‘Aliyah, a 56-year-old husband and father of nine from the village, who was injured in the incident, said:

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‘Adel Abu ‘Aliyah. Photo by Iyad Hadad, 29 Jan. 2019

At around 4 P.M., there were about ten young guys around me, including Hamdi. They were throwing stones at the settlers. Other residents warned us that some settlers had gone around from the right, down below. I saw two of them. One was dressed in white, and the other was wearing a black shirt. They came from below and got up to about away twenty meters from us. Another group of settlers was above, about fifty meters away. Both groups started firing at us intensely. Hamdi told me to get down on the ground, and dropped to the ground himself. I lay on the ground. The bullets hit the rocks near us.

I looked over at Hamdi, who was about five meters away from me, and saw he wasn’t moving. I assumed he’d been hit. I was afraid I’d get hit too and got up to run away, and then I got hit by a bullet in the left shoulder. I felt my body shake. I ran and got away from the bullet range, shouting I’m hit, I’m hit.

ביתו של חאג' מוסא והאזור שבו ניסו התושבים להדוף את מתקפת המתנחלים. צילום: איל שגיב, בצלם, 7.2.19
Haj Mousa's home and the area where the residents tried to ward off the settler assault. Other houses in the village of al-Mughayir are seen in the background. Photo by Eyal Sagiv, B'Tselem, 7 Feb. 2019

T.N., a 39-year-old husband and farmer, came to help fend off the settlers. In a testimony he gave on 29 January 2019, he described what took place:

When I got there, I saw my cousin, Hamdi Na’asan, evacuating a young man who was wounded along with two other residents. His clothes were soaked in blood around the midriff. They told me settlers had shot him and that they had got him out from behind the stone wall.

I advanced towards the hill from which the settlers were attacking us. I saw 25 more young guys who were trying to get them away. In the meantime, another group of settlers armed with rifles came from the north, behind the hill where we were. They got up to a distance of 70-100 meters from us. Three settlers advanced up to a distance of a few dozen meters from us. They were armed with rifles too. The two groups fired at us. The young guys threw stones at them.

I stood a few meters away from Hamdi. I heard J., who was standing behind us, shout: “Watch out, the settlers are coming from below”. It turned out three settlers armed with rifles, two in civilian clothes and on with a black shirt and army pants, had gotten up to 20-30 meters away from us, to the right. By the time I heard the warnings, they were already firing at us intensely, trying to hit as many people as possible. We took cover behind the rocks to shield ourselves. Most of us lay down. I started crawling back toward Haj Musa’s house. I looked back to see where the settlers were attacking and saw Hamdi lying on the ground and not moving.

About half an hour later, the settlers started retreating up a nearby hill, with some of the residents chasing them and throwing stones at them. It was only then that soldiers and Border Police officers approached and started firing tear gas, rubber coated metal bullets and live rounds at the residents. One of them fired a “rubber” bullet at the head of one of the residents, injuring him. About an hour and a half later, security forces dispersed the residents and left the area.

The violent settler attack on al-Mughayir proceeded in waves. It began with the assault of four farmers working their land and continued with massive settler fire toward village residents, who tried to ward them off and prevent them from entering the village. Hamdi Na’asan was fatally shot in the back and nine other residents were wounded. Security forces were informed of the settler attack and were about 200 meters away from the scene at the time the attack began. They did not, however, try to prevent the settlers from approaching the village or firing at its residents and did not arrest the assailants after the incident. Instead, when security forces finally arrived at the scene itself, they fired live rounds in the air, tear gas and “rubber” bullets at village residents, injuring one in the head with a “rubber” bullet.

The settlers gave contradictory accounts of the incident, ranging from the allegation that a group of settlers or a youth from the settlement had been attacked near Adei Ad by residents of al-Mughayir, to an account that the settlement’s emergency response team tried to prevent a kidnapping, or chased persons suspected of having stabbed the youth, to the complete fabrication touted by the settlement’s secretariat chair that 600 Palestinians had come to the settlement and the emergency response team responded with live fire.

The day after the incident, the media reported that the firearms of the emergency response team had been removed for examination, but the military provided them with replacements. The media also reported that the police and the MPIU had launched a joint investigation. However, years of experience have shown that, as a rule, investigations of this type are not aimed at uncovering the truth and are simply part of the routine whitewashing mechanism the state has previously employed in thousands of cases in which Palestinians were killed by soldiers or settlers.

The deadly attack by the Adei Ad “emergency response team”, waged in the presence of security forces, is no isolated incident, and the settlers who fired are not just rogue elements. This attack is simply another in a list of hundreds of violent settler attacks throughout the West Bank during which Palestinian property and land have been harmed, with security forces playing an active role in the attack, standing idly by as it unfolds or nowhere to be seen. The persistence of these incidents, whatever the circumstances, reveals they are not localized or transient, but part of a violent, coordinated policy backed up by the military and the government. As part of this policy, the state - through the military and the settlers - works consistently and forcefully to usurp the land of as many Palestinians as possible and encourage them to leave their land "voluntarily." The people who pay the price for this organized violence are always Palestinians. Sometimes the price is their livelihoods. Sometimes, like on 26 January 2019 in al-Mughayir, it is their bodies or very life.