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A shattered windshield in Wasfi Zeita’s car. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B'Tselem, 19 March, 2019
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Predictable, violent settler rampage after a Palestinian attacks Israelis; Israeli security forces do nothing

On the morning of 17 March 2019, a Palestinian stabbed and shot dead an Israeli soldier, Gal Keidan, and later shot a settler, Achiad Ettinger, (after stealing his car at Ariel junction). He also fired at other soldiers. Ettinger died of his wounds the next day. One of the soldiers was seriously wounded. Immediately after the incident, settlers set out to attack Palestinians throughout the West Bank.

During this five-day rampage, settlers attacked individuals traveling in cars; and raided villages, accompanied by soldiers who not only failed to stop the settlers, but joined in on the attack, firing rubber-coated metal bullets and live rounds at Palestinians. Settlers also staged nocturnal raids into Palestinian villages, vandalizing cars and defacing a mosque.

Attacks of this sort happen after nearly every attack by a Palestinian, so it stands to reason that Israeli security forces should have taken measures to prevent these attacks and protect Palestinians from the assailants. But, as it has done in the past, the security establishment did nothing, once again giving settlers a free hand to attack Palestinians, and sometimes even helping them. These are neither aberrations nor “bad apples.” Rather, it is conduct that is commensurate with Israel’s longstanding policy in the West Bank, serving it and helping it achieve its goals.

Descriptions of several incidents and testimonies from some of the victims follow:

A shattered windshield in Wasfi Zeita’s car. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B'Tselem, 19 March, 2019

Al-‘Einab Road, near Deir Ibzi’, Ramallah District, 17 March 2019

On 17 March 2019, at around 10:00 P.M., about ten settlers attacked Wasfi Zeita’s car, on al-‘Einab Road, near the entrance to the village of Deir Ibzi’. Zeita, 31, a married father of three, lives in the village of ‘Ein ‘Arik and was on his way home. The settlers scattered rocks along the road, trying to block the car, beat Zeita with metal rods through the car windows, and tried to gain control of the car. Zeita drove faster and managed to escape.

Al-‘Einab Road, near Deir Ibzi’, Ramallah District, 17 March 2019

Wasfi Zeita. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B'Tselem, 19 March, 2019

On 17 March 2019, at around 10:00 P.M., about ten settlers attacked Wasfi Zeita’s car, on al-‘Einab Road, near the entrance to the village of Deir Ibzi’. Zeita, 31, a married father of three, lives in the village of ‘Ein ‘Arik and was on his way home. The settlers scattered rocks along the road, trying to block the car, beat Zeita with metal rods through the car windows, and tried to gain control of the car. Zeita drove faster and managed to escape.

This is what he related in a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad on 19 March 2019:

At around 10:00 P.M., I was visiting the village of Kharbatha Bani Harith. I saw on social media that the military was blocking the entrances to a few villages because of the attack that happened near Ariel. I decided not to linger and go home. When I was about 30 meters away from the gate at the entrance to the village of Deir Ibzi’ (the road to ‘Ein ‘Arik goes through the village), I saw rocks of different sizes scattered along the road. They interfered with the driving. I thought the military had put the rocks there and closed the road. I thought I’d take the chance and drive past them so I wouldn’t have to go all the way back and take a different route home. I only had a few meters left to get through the segment the military sometimes closes. There was a truck behind me. When we turned into the al-‘Einab Road (which goes from Route 463 to Deir Ibzi’), it was dark because there is no lighting there. I drove another 30 meters, but the gate on the way was closed, and there were no soldiers or anyone else. I rolled down the window to try to see the road better, and then I saw the headlights of five or six cars that were parked near Dolev Junction. I guessed those were settlers’ cars, and I got scared. I turned to go back, and then saw 10-12 settlers approaching from the right, from the direction of the parked cars. They were about 30 meters away from me.

When they saw me and the truck that was driving behind me, they split into two groups. Three settlers dragged some barbed wire fencing that was near the road and used it to block the road ahead of me. The others came toward me. Two of them were wearing masks and two were holding wooden sticks or metal rods. The others were holding stones. They looked like they were ready to attack.

I rolled down the window beside me, so the rocks wouldn’t shatter it. The settlers started throwing stones and they hit the body of the car. Three of them came right up to me and put their hands inside the car. Two tried to open the door and hit me on the arms with the poles. They felt like metal rods. The third one tried to turn the steering wheel and get me off the road. I pushed them through the window a few times. It was all like a scene from a Hollywood action movie, especially since I was still driving between the rocks that were scattered on the road. I was very careful not to run over the settlers who were blocking my path, and I was also pushing the settlers who were trying to take over my car.

I was scared they were going to kill me. I drove faster and managed to get past the barbed wire. I drove over it, but it stuck to the underside of the car and got dragged for about 30 meters. Lucky it didn’t puncture the tires.

I managed to get away and go back on the same road I’d come on. I went back to Kharbatha Bani Harith, and from there I went through Bil’in, Kafr Ni’ma and Deir Ibzi’. I got to my village, ‘Ein ‘Arik, only at 11:00 o’clock. I had bruises and a wound on my arm. When I got home, I checked the car and found a stone inside. The windshield had cracked but had not broken because it has protective coating. The hood was also damaged, and there were two dents on the body of the car. The bumper was destroyed.

I don’t know what happened to the truck that was driving behind me. It’s by the grace of God that I got out of this alive, maybe also because the settlers were busy attacking the truck.

The car in which employees of the Palestinian Electric Company were attached. Photo by Salma a-Deba'i, B'Tselem

Nablus - Tulkarm road, 4 kilometers from Deir Sharaf, Nablus District, 17 March 2019

On 17 March 2019, at around 8:30 P.M., at least ten settlers attacked a Palestinian Electric Company van that was parked by the side of the Tulkarm-Nablus, about four kilometers away from the village of Deir Sharaf. Three employees of the Electric Company were inside the van, Raed a-Thilth, Nashaat Dweikat and Samer al-Hayat. They were waiting for a resident of Deir Sharaf to accompany them to a neighborhood where there was a problem with the electricity. Stones hit Raed a-Thilth and Nashaat Dweikat in the head. A-Thilth also suffered eye injuries because glass splinters went into his eyes. Both men were taken to the Arab Hospital in Nablus for treatment.

Raed a-Thilth and Nashaat Dweikatin the hospital the day after the attack. Photo by Salma a-Deba'i, B'Tselem, March 18, 2019

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Dib’i on 18 March 2019, Raed a-Thilth, 45, a married father of five, from Beit Iba, Nablus District, spoke about the attack:

I work as a driver for the Palestine Electric Company. That day, we’d arrived near the City Club Community Center, about ten kilometers away from Nablus, and were waiting for a man who had reported an electrical problem. Suddenly, the vehicle got hit by many stones from all directions. At first, I thought it was gunshots, because the noise was very frightening. I felt a sharp pain on the left side of my head and blood started running down my face. I felt my head, and didn’t know what to do, because Samer and Nashaat, who were in the van, were asking me to drive away from there at the same time. I was so stressed I couldn’t start the engine. Then I realized it was already running. I drove without looking right or left, just straight ahead. I don’t even know how I managed to drive. The windshield was shattered and the wind blew glass splinters into my eyes. I drove until the roundabout near Deir Sharaf.

Nashaat called the company office, reported the incident and asked them to call for an ambulance. People from the village came to the roundabout. They brought us water and cotton balls and tried to care for us until a Red Crescent ambulance came and took us to the Arab Hospital.

A vehicle damaged next to the Bashir family home. Photo by Abdulkarim Sadi, B'Tselem, 18 March 2019

Jinsafut, Qalqiliyah District, 17 March 2019

On 17 March 2019, at around 7:00 P.M., about 15 settlers attacked the Bashir family home in the village of Jinsafut, Qalqiliyah District. The settlers broke two windows in the Bashir home. They also, smashed windows and slashed the tires of two of commercial vehicles and one private car that were parked on the street and belong to neighbors.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi on 18 March 2019, Issam Bashir, 28, spoke about the attack:

Issam Bashir. Photo by Abdulkarim Sadi, B'Tselem, 18 March 19

Yesterday, at about 7:00 P.M., I was home with my family. A friend texted me that there was a group of people on the road near our house. I went to the window overlooking the road and saw about ten settlers smashing the windows of my relative’s car from all directions. The settlers started throwing stones at my house. The windows in the guest room and in another room on the second floor shattered. I climbed to the rooftop, above the third floor, and caught sight of the settlers running away. There were about 15 of them. They got into three cars that were waiting for them at the eastern entrance to our village, about 150 meters away from our house. They drove toward the road leading to Immanuel. When I climbed down from the roof, I saw they had also smashed the windows of two commercial vehicles and punctured their tires.

The settlers had no reason to attack us and damage our property. Our village is quiet and there haven’t been any problems with the military or the settlers.

On Monday night, at around 1:00 A.M., a military force came to our house. The soldiers questioned us about the attack and the damage the settlers had done to the cars and houses. They asked if there were security cameras in our neighborhood, but there are none. They left after ten minutes.

Shattered window in the Bashir family home. Photo by Abdulkarim Sadi, B'Tselem, 18 March 19

Entrance to the compound that is the former location of the settlement of Homesh, Jenin District, 18 March 2019:

On 18 March 2019, at around 11:00 P.M., Rawan Ighbariyah , 23, and her brother Nizar, 30, from the village of Kufeirit, Jenin District, were driving to Rawda College in Nablus. The two pulled over to take a break at the entrance to the compound that had previously been the site of the settlement of Homesh. The settlement, near the village of Silat a-Dhahr, had been evacuated in 2005. Nizar went into the compound. When he was fifty meters away from the car, he was attacked from behind by a masked settler, who then threw stones at him, as did another masked settler. At the same time, about five other settlers threw stones at the car, with Rawan still inside it. One stone hit her in the stomach. She ran out of the car, and was hit by stones in the left leg and back.

Nizar Arbaria Photo by Abdulkarim Sadi, B'Tselem, 18 March 19

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi the next day, Nizar Ighbariyah described how the incident began:

I pulled the jeep over to go take a leak. I had gone about 50 meters, when suddenly I heard someone yelling and got hit in the back with a stick. I turned around and saw two masked men in civilian clothing. They were shouting in Hebrew, and had sidelocks, so I figured they were settlers.

I heard my sister Rawan screaming, and realized other settlers were attacking her. I quickly ran over to her and saw 7 or 8 settlers who looked like those who had attacked me. They were standing about 10 meters away from the jeep, pelting it with stones. I saw Rawan get out of the jeep and run away. I heard the settlers yelling: “Kill her, kill her.”

In a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i on 1 April 2019, Rawan Ighbariyah described the assault and what she has been going through ever since:

When we got to the area where the settlement that was evacuated, Homesh, had been, Nizar stopped the jeep to find a spot to go to the bathroom. He left the door open. I was surfing the internet on my cell phone. It’s a very green area with lots of vegetation, and it was quiet.

Suddenly, I heard a noise and my brother yelling. I turned to look and saw a few masked settlers throwing stones at Nizar. In the meantime, some other settlers started throwing stones at me. I thought I was going to die. The look in their eyes was scary. I haven’t been able to forget them ever since. A large stone hit me in the stomach. I heard stones hitting the back of the jeep. I opened the jeep door and ran. I ran for about ten meters and then stopped. I heard Nizar saying: “Stop. Get back to the jeep, or they’ll kill you.” He went back to the jeep and the settlers continued to throw stones at the jeep and at me.

In the meantime, more settlers came and there were almost twenty of them. They threw anything they could find at me, including branches. Nizar spoke to the settlers in Hebrew, and one of them said to me: “Come, come.” I didn't know what to do. I felt like I was going to die. I looked at the jeep and didn’t know how to get back there, because the settlers had surrounded it. One of them told me this was their land, not ours. Nizar told me to come to the jeep so they wouldn’t shoot me. One of the settlers had a gun. Nizar looked very frightened and nervous.

I ran over to the jeep, opened the door, and one settler hit me with a wooden stick, striking a spot between my neck and left shoulder. Nizar started the car. I don’t know how we managed to get out of there. During the ride, I couldn’t look at Nizar or talk to him. I felt like I couldn’t breathe or move. Later, I asked Nizar if he had been hurt, and he said no. He asked me if had been hurt and I said no. He asked me whether I wanted to go back home or to the dorms, and I said I wanted to go to the dorms. In the meantime, Nizar called the Israel Police and told them what happened, in Hebrew.

At the dorms, I went to my room. A friend asked me what had happened to me, and I told her. I asked her to shut the windows and draw the curtains in the room. My neck and left leg and arm started cramping up. I had a hard time breathing. My friend took me to the hospital in a taxi. I was exhausted, and I hurt all over, especially my stomach and the left side of my body. I couldn’t sit, just lie down. They took some x-rays and I went home. I stayed home for two weeks, during which time I needed help to get out of bed, even just to go to the bathroom. The doctor gave me an elastic band for my ankle, because the ligaments had been torn and my ankle got twisted.

I didn’t go back to class until this week. I still can’t walk very far or climb stairs normally. I have to take cabs. It’s costing me a lot of money.

I’ve also been unable to sleep normally. I wake up several times a night and have an anxiety attack every time I think about what happened. I can’t look at anything green, not even trees and plants, because it reminds me of the incident. These feelings are killing me. I still can’t live and study normally.