Burin, Nablus District: Settlers attack family working its land with stones, rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas
On Monday, 15 February 2021, Yasser (39) and Suha (37) ‘Umran arrived at their plot on the eastern side of the village. Three of their seven children, aged 8, 10 and 11, came with them, as well as a relative, Baker ‘Abd al-Haq (31).
At around 3:30 P.M., two settlers arrived at the plot and ordered the family to leave. When they refused, the settlers themselves left, but returned half an hour later with reinforcements – about 15 more settlers, some of them masked and two of them armed. The settlers began throwing stones at the family, hitting Suha ‘Umran and her children. They also uprooted olive saplings the family had planted earlier that day. The family tried to protect themselves by throwing stones at the settlers, at which point the settlers began firing rubber-coated metal bullets at them and throwing tear gas canisters and smoke grenades. The family had no choice but to flee and wait at a safe distance.
Several minutes after that, two soldiers arrived. They spoke with the settlers while the latter went on damaging the grove, and left after several minutes without arresting or removing the settlers. Yasser ‘Umran reported the attack to the village council and the family returned home, with Suha and the children bruised from the stones.
This is the second time the ‘Umran family have been attacked by settlers while working their land.
Residents of Burin, which is surrounded by the settlements of Har Bracha and Yitzhar, have been suffering for years from repeated attacks by settlers. In the 1980s, the settlement of Yitzhar was built about a kilometer south of the village.
Har Bracha was built about a kilometer northeast of it. Both settlements were built on land belonging to Burin and neighboring villages.
Family members described the violent attack they suffered in testimonies they gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i.
For an entire week during February 2021, we worked to get the land ready for planting and sowing: I, my wife and our children cleaned it up and then plowed it. On Monday, 15 February 2021, my wife and I went to the plot with three of our children, Adam (11), Rafif (10) and ‘Anud (8), as well as my nephew, Baker al-Haq (31). We brought 40 olive saplings with us and several types of grain seeds.
While we were working, settlers showed up and one of them demanded we leave the area. I speak Hebrew well, and I told him we would not leave. After about half an hour, they came back with 15 or more masked settlers, who were running towards us quickly while throwing stones. Some began uprooting the saplings we had managed to plant. I told them, “Why are you uprooting the trees?! Every religion prohibits it. This is madness! Leave the trees!” But then they started breaking the olive saplings we hadn’t managed to plant yet.
Baker and I tried to protect the family, and I shouted to my wife to take the children and leave.
Suha ‘Umran related being hit by the stones the settlers threw and fleeing with her children:
I tried to hide with the children behind the rocks. There were a lot of settlers there. Some threw stones, and others uprooted the trees we had planted. I held my children’s hands and we ran. One stone hit my daughter. She fell and got up again, and we kept running. A settler threw a tear gas canister and also fired a “rubber” bullet. It was the first time I’d seen them with something like that. I thought only soldiers had tear gas canisters and “rubber” bullets. We ran until we were far away, and I continued watching from a distance what was going on, because I was worried about my husband and his nephew.
Yasser’ Umran recounted how the settlers used military crowd control weapons, and described the indifference of the soldiers who arrived and abandoned his family to their fate:
We hid behind the rocks to protect ourselves from the stones, but that wasn’t enough for them. They fired “rubber” bullets at us and threw tear gas canisters and smoke grenades. I was shocked. Two of the settlers were armed and they fired live rounds, too. Baker and I ran away, zigzagging to dodge the bullets. I saw the rubber bullets hit the ground and raise dirt in the air.
When we got to my wife and kids, we all moved away from the plot, hid behind some olive trees and watched what was going on from a distance. The settlers went on breaking the olive saplings and throwing them far away. They threw away the grain seeds, too. Then, two soldiers came from the direction of the settlement, but the settlers ignored them and the soldiers didn’t do anything. They spoke to them for a short while, and then left and let them stay there, going wild and destroying our property.
Suha ‘Umran talked about how the attack affected her children:
The kids were very scared. At home, I saw they had bruises from the stones on their backs and legs. I also had a bruise on my back. I didn’t really feel it when I got hit, because I was focused on getting the kids out of there. The kids have asked us to leave the village and move somewhere else, because the settlers attack us all the time. They attacked us a few months ago too, when we were working the land, and scattered all of our and our children’s things. My daughter Rafif (10) has started wetting the bed. They keep talking about the incident, and they’re afraid of everything. Any loud sound or sudden noise startles them, and if they hear gunfire, they get very stressed. I’ve contacted some organizations to look into treatment options for them, but because of the coronavirus and the lockdown, it hasn’t gone anywhere yet.
Al-Janiyah, Ramallah District: Settlers uproot and break 15 olive trees after erecting roofed shelter nearby
On 15 February 2021, Sati Abu Fkheidah (66), a father of nine, discovered settlers had uprooted and broken 15 olive trees he had planted seven years earlier. His land lies on the slopes of a hill about two kilometers northwest of the village.
Several months ago, settlers put up a roofed shelter at the foot of the hill.
In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, Abu Fkheidah described the damage the settlers caused him:
When I went to the land to check on the trees, I saw two settlers in dark clothing, covering their faces with shirts. I saw them heading away from the groves towards the shelter they put up. I was afraid to chase them because sometimes they’re armed.
I held back and kept quiet, even though I felt terribly frustrated when I saw all my work gone down the drain. I bought seedlings that were 5 to 6 years old, and each cost 60 to 70 shekels (~18-21 USD). They’d grown and were about to yield fruit. I put iron rods around each one and stretched an iron net between them to protect them from deer and wild boars. The settlers uprooted the rods and nets, too.
I couldn’t do anything. I called the Palestinian DCO and told them what happened. They apparently informed the Israeli DCO, who called me in the afternoon and told me they were planning to come inspect the damage and investigate the incident. Right now, I’m waiting for them to arrive, even though I have no expectations from the pointless investigations by the military or the Israeli police. They usually have connections with the settlers and they cover up their crimes.
Since they put up that shelter, the owners of nearby plots and I have lived in fear of damage to our crops and physical assaults against us if we go to our land. We keep hearing reports about settler attacks everywhere.
The settlement outpost of Neriya was established about 500 meters away from Abu Fkheidah’s plot. Since then, residents of the village of Ras Karkar, whose lands lie next to the outpost, have also reported settlers damaging their crops.
Turmusaya, Ramallah District: Settlers rake and destroy farmland belonging to local resident, as part of a gradual takeover of his land
On 15 February 2021, Sa’id Kuk (61), a married father of eight from the village of Turmusaya, discovered that settlers had raked, razed and damaged about 60 dunams (1 dunam = 1,000 square meters) of land he and his family own.
Kuk filed a complaint at the Binyamin Police station on 11 March 2021.
Over the past year, as of April 2020, B’Tselem has documented 18 settler attacks against Turmusaya residents and their property.
In a testimony he gave B'Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, Kuk spoke about the settlers’ gradual takeover of his land:
On 15 February 2021, I discovered settlers had raked a large part of my land. They razed the entire plot – probably ahead of the outpost’s expansion and the takeover of our 60 dunams. I contacted the Palestinian DCO to file a complaint and applied to human rights organizations and the ICRC for help, but no one helped me. On 11 March 2021, I filed a complaint with the Israel Police. They registered my complaint but I’m not putting too much stock in it. I have filed complaints before, to no avail.
That’s the way it is – they’re taking over our land. It’s an ongoing ordeal of aggression and unending settlement expansion. The land they took over is the thing that’s dearest to us. They destroyed my dream and my sons’ dream to return to the land for construction or recreation. This situation is why my sons prefer to emigrate and work in the US, because they’ve been left no option to work the land or build on it here. The actions of the settlers limit their hopes and aspirations here.
Whenever the settlers do something more to take over the land, it feels like amputating parts of my body. They sever the memories, my history with the land. We grew up in this land. We lived off it, and spent our childhood and youth there. We have beautiful, sweet memories with our parents and relatives during the harvest. We’d spend weeks and months there, sometimes. They destroyed our way of life and wiped out our plans for the future.
In 1981, I went to work in the States with my family, but I came back to the village every summer, to spend the summer holiday here and improve the soil in my plot. Five years ago, I moved back here, even though I have seven married sons and daughters who work and live there with their families. They come to visit every once in a while, but I want to stay here now, to be close to my land, and to try and protect what’s left of it as much as I can.
All the residents of this area suffer daily. The settlers and the settlements have become a nightmare that mars every moment of our lives. We have nothing left to do but put our faith in God and pray that they leave.
The settlement outpost of Ami Hai was built about 500 meters away from the Kuk family land in 2018. It is located near the older settlement outpost of Adei Ad.