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Shooting, assaulting, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at cars and homes, raiding villages, torching structures and fields, vandalizing property and crops: settlers exercise harsh daily violence against Palestinians, with state support, to drive them out of their land. Launched in early 2020, this blog gives voice to the people exposed to this violence. Background on the topic

December 2020

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Shattered windows in a Huwara home, 30 Dec. 2020. Photo courtesy of the Qasrawi family
Shattered windows in a Huwara home, 30 Dec. 2020. Photo courtesy of the Qasrawi family

Huwarah, Nablus District: Settlers attack homes in the town on two consecutive days. Soldiers were present during at least one of the attacks

On 30 December 2020, at around 9:30 P.M., settlers stoned a home on the northern side of Huwarah, about 100 meters away from the intersection at the town entrance on Route 60, smashing two windows.

The next day, 31 December 2020, settlers again came to the entrance of Huwarah and protested there. During the demonstration, where soldiers were present, settlers attacked a home located near the traffic circle, smashing seven of its windows.

Violent settler attacks, long since a routine matter throughout the West Bank, have increased significantly since Ahuvia Sandak, a 16-year-old Israeli, died during a police chase near the settlement of Kochav Hashachar on 21 December 2020.

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A shattered window in 'Ali Dawabsheh's car, Huwarah junction, 28 Dec. 2020. Photo by Ali Dawabsheh
A shattered window in 'Ali Dawabsheh's car, Huwarah junction, 28 Dec. 2020. Photo by Ali Dawabsheh

Huwarah Junction, Nablus District: Settlers block road, throw stones and break car window

On 28 December 2020, at around 8:30 P.M., ‘Ali Dawabsheh (33), a married father of three from the village of Duma in Nablus District, was driving home with two relatives. When the car neared the Huwarah (Yitzhar) Junction, the three saw dozens of settlers blocking the road, with dozens of soldiers and Border Police officers guarding them. The settlers threw stones at Dawabsheh’s car and smashed its right rear window. Dawabsheh stopped the car and got out, but a Border Police officer ordered him to get back in. He obeyed, and then the settlers surrounded his car and started kicking it until the security forces drove them away, at which point Dawabsheh drove home.

The next day, Dawabsheh replaced the window at a cost of 500 shekels (~155 USD).

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, ‘Ali Dawabsheh recounted the settlers’ attack on his car:  

On Monday, 28 December 2020, at around 8:30 P.M., I was driving home from Tulkarm with my two cousins, Saed (40) and Muhammad (31). When we got to Route 60 (near Huwarah/Jit) and were about 30 to 50 meters from the junction, I suddenly saw about 40 settlers blocking the road. There were also about 25 to 30 soldiers and Border Police officers there.

I was nervous and didn’t know what to do. Settlers who were on the right side of the road threw stones at my car and smashed the right rear window. Luckily, Muhammad, who was in back, was lying on the backseat with his head tilted left, otherwise he would have been badly injured.

I got out of the car, and one of the Border Police officers ordered me to get back in. I said to him, “Did you see what they did?” He answered in good Arabic, “It’s good that it ended that way and nothing else happened.” Then he ordered me to get back in the car. I did what he said, and then the settlers, who had gathered around the car, started kicking it. The soldiers made them move away and surrounded the car, and one of the police officers motioned me to drive on. Even though the soldiers were there, the settlers kicked the car a few more times until I got to the Huwarah Junction road, and from there continued to Huwarah.  

I stopped by the roadside and we cleared the shattered glass from the car. Muhammad’s clothes were covered in glass. Thank God no one was hurt. Then we drove on home to Duma.

The soldiers didn’t call the police and didn’t refer me to file a complaint. It all happened before their very eyes, and they didn’t lift a finger.

 

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Muhammad Abu Ta’ah at his driveway, after dozens of setters invaded the neighborhood and terrorized its Arab residents, Abu Ta’ah neighborhood, the French Hill, 26 Dec. 2020. Photo by ‘Amer ‘Aruri, B’Tselem
Muhammad Abu Ta’ah at his driveway, after dozens of setters invaded the neighborhood and terrorized its Arab residents, Abu Ta’ah neighborhood, the French Hill, 26 Dec. 2020. Photo by ‘Amer ‘Aruri, B’Tselem

Abu Ta’ah neighborhood, French Hill, East Jerusalem: Settlers pelt homes and cars with stones

Since 16-year-old Israeli Ahuvia Sandak died during a police chase near the settlement of Kochav Hashachar on 21 December 2020, the number of violent settler attacks against Palestinians has sharply risen throughout the West Bank.

On 26 December 2020, at around 6:00 P.M., thousands of settlers protested in front of the National Police Headquarters on Road 1 in East Jerusalem. About three hours later, dozens of settlers began pelting homes and parked cars in the neighborhood of Abu Ta’ah in the French Hill with stones. Four neighborhood residents came out to protect their homes and threw stones back at the settlers. Officers who arrived at the scene several minutes later, pushed the settlers back, but not before they managed to break a window in one of the homes and the windows of two cars.

Residents of nearby neighborhoods who arrived at the scene stayed on the street until 1:00 A.M. to protect the residents.

Muhammad Abu Ta’ah, 55, a married mother of five who lives in the French Hill spoke about the settler attack in his neighborhood in a testimony he gave B'Tselem field researcher 'Amer ‘Aruri:
On Saturday, 26 December 2020, at around 6:00 P.M., settlers started demonstrating on Road 1. At around 8:00 P.M., settlers arrived in our area and stood in front of the neighborhood. I saw them blocking the street on both ends, in front of the white statue, and attacking cars that were passing by - apparently cars they thought belonged to Arabs. They were shouting, “death to Arabs.” There was a large police contingent there.

At around 9:00 P.M., the settlers started throwing stones at the neighborhood. The two closest houses to Road 1 in the neighborhood are ours and my cousin’s Muhannad Abu Ta’ah. Muhannad and I went out to see what was going on, and two residents from the neighborhood joined us. We threw stones back at the settlers to get them away from our homes. It was only when the police saw us throwing stones back at the settlers that they intervened.

Asmaa Siyam, 51, Muhammad’s wife and a mother of five, who lives in the French Hill, spoke about the settler attack on her home and neighborhood in a testimony she gave B'Tselem field researcher 'Amer ‘Aruri:

On 26 December 2020, I was at my house in the Abu Ta’ah neighborhood in the French Hill. My daughters Israa, 30, and Razan, 22, and my son, Suhayb, 15, were with me. My husband stood outside and watched the settlers’ demonstration in front of the National Headquarters.

At around 9:00 P.M., I heard my husband yelling and crying out for help. I came out with my daughters and my son and saw my husband, our neighbor Muhannad Abu Ta’ah and two others, and about 50 settlers who had entered the neighborhood. My daughters started yelling and screaming, and Suhayb was also very scared.

We tried throwing stones back at them to protect our homes. There were only four of us, and 50 settlers in front of us with hundreds more on the main road, in front of the neighborhood, shouting “Death to Arabs.”

I felt that they were about to kill us.

A few minutes later, police officers came and pushed the settlers away. My husband stayed standing in front of the house to protect it and refused to come inside. I stayed with him, and more residents came and stood by our side. Thank God they only damaged one window in our house and a few cars parked on the street.

The settlers left the area at around 1:00 A.M., but we didn’t fall asleep until 5:00 A.M., as the sun went up. We were really worried the settlers would come back. A few friends and relatives stayed with us for three days after the attack, in case the settlers attacked again.

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Jalud, Nablus District: Dozens of masked settlers enter village and throw stones at homes and parked cars

Since 16-year-old Israeli Ahuvia Sandak died during a police chase near the settlement of Kochav Hashachar on 21 December 2020, the number of violent settler attacks against Palestinians has sharply risen throughout the West Bank.

On 23 December 2020, at around 10:00 P.M., about 30 masked settlers arrived at the southeastern neighborhood of Jalud, a village in Nablus District, and pelted homes and cars with stones. The settlers broke a security camera and the windows of three cars. Local residents chased them and they escaped towards the outpost of Ahiya. About half an hour later, five soldiers came to the village from the direction of the outpost. They spoke with locals and took photos of the damage done to the cars. In the meantime, the settlers returned and ignored the soldiers’ instructions to keep away. The soldiers called in Border Police forces, and when they arrived about 30 minutes later, the settlers again fled towards the outpost. The forces then left, and a military jeep was posted on the outskirts of the outpost. Village residents remained out in the street until the small hours of the night to protect their property, and then returned home.

Na'im Farah ‘Abbad, a 36-year-old married father of five from Jalud, spoke about the settler attack in a testimony he gave B'Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i:

On Wednesday, 23 December 2020, I was visiting my parents with my wife Rana (28) and our children (eight months to 12) in the southeastern part of the village.

At around 10:00 P.M., we were sitting in their home chatting and drinking tea, when I heard noises outside. I went out and saw 10-15 settlers by my car. They took off when they saw me, and I discovered they’d broken all the windows. I heard my cousin Muhammad, who lives near my parents, yelling: “Settlers! Settlers are breaking cars!” I followed him with some other cousins of mine, and I saw about 30 settlers running towards the outpost of Ahiya. It looked like they’d split into two groups – one damaged my car, and the other damaged Muhammad’s car.

We ran after them but kept about a 200-meter distance, because we were scared they’d shoot us. They ran off, and we went back to our homes. Because of the yelling, all the residents of the neighborhood came out of their houses. When I got back, my wife was outside, too. She told me my mother had fainted, apparently from the stress and fear. She’s a diabetic and has high blood pressure. My brother Nassim and I drove her to hospital in Nablus, where they examined her and then released her.

Muhammad ‘Abbad (37), a married father of six from Jalud, also spoke about that night in a testimony he gave B'Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb'i:

About half an hour after the attack, while we were still standing outside, about five or six soldiers came from the direction of the Ahiya outpost. They asked about what happened and took pictures of the cars. One of them spoke Arabic well, and they left soldiers in a military jeep around to keep watch.

While the soldiers were in the village, the settlers came back and got up to about 100 meters away from our houses. The soldiers yelled at them but didn’t stop them from approaching. They called a Border Police force, which came about half an hour later. It was only then that the settlers left. The soldiers and Border Police officers left the village and kept a military jeep on the outskirts of the outpost.

We stayed in the yard and didn’t go back inside until 3:00 A.M. It was cold and by then, I couldn’t see the jeep anymore. It must have driven off.

We’ve been on constant alert ever since that day, afraid of another attack. I can’t sleep at night. I’m worried they’ll surprise us and this time, torch the cars or one of the houses. Thank God the kids were asleep during the attack; otherwise, they would have been very frightened. I asked my wife not to let them play in the yard or in the village with other kids, like they usually do.

The outpost of Ahiya was established in 2015 about a kilometer away from Jalud.

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Iyad Hamuda’s windshield, after it was smashed by a stone thrown by a settler, Route 60, Ariel junction, 22 Dec. 2020. Photo by Iyad Hamuda
Iyad Hamuda’s windshield, after it was smashed by a stone thrown by a settler, Route 60, Ariel junction, 22 Dec. 2020. Photo by Iyad Hamuda

Road 60, Ari’el Junction: dozens of settlers pelted car with stones

Since 16-year-old Israeli Ahuvia Sandak died during a police chase near the settlement of Kochav Hashachar on 21 December 2020, the number of violent settler attacks against Palestinians has sharply risen throughout the West Bank.

On 22 December 2020, at around 10:00 P.M., Iyad Hamuda, 42, a father of six from the village of Kharbata al-Mesbah was driving on Road 60. As he approached the Salfit intersection (Ari’el University), Hamuda drove past a police cruiser, and then, dozens of settlers pelted his car with stones, breaking the front windshield and side-view mirrors. The officers did not intervene.

Hamuda kept driving for about 100 meters until he reached two police cruisers and a military vehicle that were pulled over by the side of the road. He stopped to report the incident, but they signaled for him to keep driving.

Hamuda’s windshield and side-view mirrors were repaired the next day for several hundred NIS.

In the testimony he gave B'Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, Hamuda described the settler attack on his car in the presence of police and military and the indifference shown by police officers in the area:

I was driving my car home to Kharbata al-Mesbah, Ramallah District, on Road 60.

I approached the Salfit (Ari’el University) intersection, which branches out of Road 60. When I was 100-200 meters away from the intersection, I saw about six or seven Israel Police and military vehicles and dozens of settlers. I slowed down and kept driving. I passed a police car that was parked about 20-30 meters ahead of the intersection, and the officers never warned me or said anything. They let me fall prey to the settlers.

After I passed the police car, I found myself surrounded by settlers. They were spread out in the middle of the road over more than 100 meters. They were holding signs and flags, and some had sticks and bats. They were in a rage and started throwing stones at my car. One stone hit the front windshield and cracked it. I was terrified, and I didn’t know what to do. I put my head down and kept driving. I drove about 30 or 40 meters, with stones hitting the body of the car, especially on the left. The two side-view mirrors were damaged.

After about 100 meters, I came across two police cars and a military vehicle, and I told them what had happened.  The officer in the driver’s side seat instructed me to keep driving.

I drove another 30 meters, and then I saw officers stopping cars driving in the opposite direction. There were about 20 vehicles there. I stopped and warned the drivers.  

I drove on for about three kilometers, until the a-Sawiyah intersection, and pulled over there. I called the Israel Police and complained about what happened and about the police and military being around and doing nothing. They suggested I file a complaint at the Ari’el police station and asked if I needed an ambulance. I said I didn’t and that I couldn’t drive back to the station. The lady told me to go tomorrow.
I was very scared because it was very difficult to see through the cracked windshield, and so I drove slowly and carefully, and it took me more than an hour to get home. My family was waiting for me at home, very worried. That night was a nightmare, like a horror movie. Thank God I wasn’t hurt and came out of it in one piece.

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 A wound in Sadeq Khatatbeh’s forehead, caused by glass shards in the window of the car he was driving, after a settler threw stones at it, Route 60, 21 Dec. 2020. Photo by Sadeq Khatatbeh
A wound in Sadeq Khatatbeh’s forehead, caused by glass shards in the window of the car he was driving, after a settler threw stones at it, Route 60, 21 Dec. 2020. Photo by Sadeq Khatatbeh

Road 60, near the entrance to Shavei Shomron: Dozens of settlers stone Palestinian vehicles

Since 16-year-old Israeli Ahuvia Sandak died during a police chase near the settlement of Kochav Hashachar on 21 December 2020, the number of violent settler attacks against Palestinians has sharply risen throughout the West Bank.

On 21 December 2020, at around 4:30 P.M., Islam ‘Awadallah, 23, a resident of the village of ‘Attil, arrived at the Sarra-Jit junction.  He was driving his truck, on route to Tulkarm, with a passenger, Ahmad Badran, 23, from Tulkarm. ‘Awadallah was planning to turn onto Road 55, but when the truck arrived at the intersection, the two noticed Palestinian vehicles that had taken that turn were turning back. Settlers had blocked the road near the settlement of Kedumim. ‘Awadallah was not able to make the U-turn due to the size of his truck and continued driving north on Road 60. As they approached the entrance to the settlement of Shavei Shomron, they came across dozens of settlers who began pelting the truck with stones, breaking its windshield and side windows. Fearful, ‘Awadallah and Badran abandoned the truck in the middle of the road and fled on foot. They waited for about an hour, and when they returned, they found the truck in a ditch by the side of the road with its four front tires punctured.

‘Awadallah had to drive the truck with the punctured tires to Deir Sharaf, where he was able to change them. He replaced the broken windows the next day. The total cost of the repairs surpassed 3,000 NIS (nearly 1,000 USD).

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi, Islam ‘Awadallah described the settler attack on his truck:

I’m a truck driver, and I drive to the Sha'ar Efrayim commercial crossing every day, load the truck and distribute the goods to stores in the West Bank.

On that day, I was riding with a work colleague, Ahmad Badran. At around 4:30 P.M., we were driving back from Nablus on Road 60. When we got to the Sarra-Jit intersection, I was going to turn onto Road 55, but we suddenly noticed that cars that had made the turn were making a U-turn and heading back. When we asked the drivers what happened, they told us settlers were blocking the road to Qalqiliyah near the settlement of Kedumim.

I couldn’t make a U-turn because of the size of the truck, so I just kept going straight on Road 60. I was going to turn onto Road 557 and drive toward Tulkarm. As we came closer to the entrance to Shavei Shomron settlement, I again saw Palestinian cars stopping, turning around and heading back towards Nablus. As soon as I started slowing down in order to stop, dozens of settlers attacked the truck with stones.

Ahmad, who was sitting next to me, opened the truck door and fled, running, towards Nablus. The settlers kept throwing stones at the truck, breaking the front windshield and side windows. I was very scared. I also opened the door and abandoned the truck with the engine still running. I ran in the direction of Nablus and Deir Sharaf.

I ran for about 500 meters until I found Ahmad and some other drivers, who had gathered on the western part of Deir Sharaf. We waited there until the army came and opened the road after about an hour.

Ahmad and I decided to go back to the truck, but when we got to the spot where we’d left it, it wasn’t there. We found it near the road, with the tires in a drainage ditch by the side of the road. In addition to the broken windows, its four front tires were punctured. I still drove it to Deir Sharaf to get the tires changed.

About half an hour later, at around 5:00 P.M., Sadeq Khatatbeh, 24, who was driving with a friend from Tulkarm, where they work, home to Beit Furik, also arrived at the entrance to Shavei Shomron. Dozens of settlers, some of them masked, attacked their car with stones as well. One stone shattered the driver’s side window and entered the car. Khatatbeh was hit in the head, above the right eye. He kept driving for about 100 meters, and then pulled over, got out of the car, walked a few steps and fell down. A passing car stopped. One of its passengers got into Khatatbeh’s car and drove him and his friend to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus. Khatatbeh was examined and x-rayed, and doctors treated the scratches on his face. He was released after about two hours.

In a testimony he gave B'Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, Sadeq Khatatbeh described his injury and the settler attack on his car:

I was driving home with a friend from work from the construction site where we work in Tulkarm. As we approached the entrance to the settlement of Shavei Shomron, we suddenly saw 20-25 settlers on the left side of the road, most of them masked. They threw stones at us. I heard a very strong thud and felt glass flying into my face. I couldn’t see anything in front of me, but I kept driving.

About 100 meters farther down the road, I could barely open my right eye. I pulled over on the shoulder. I opened the door and went out. My head was hurting, and blood was dripping down my face and clothes. I couldn’t feel my face at all. I took only a few steps forward and then fell down.
In the meantime, a car that had come from the direction of Tulkarm stopped, and the young guys in it helped me and put me back in my car. One of them got in and drove the car because Yusef can’t drive. They took me to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus.

I was x-rayed, and the wound on my face was treated. Yusef, who was in shock, and I, stayed at the hospital for about two hours and then went home.

Thank God we didn’t get hit by the stone that got into the car. It’s still there. We were saved from certain death, but I’m concerned because I still can’t see well, and I’m worried my eye was damaged. The area has since swollen, and I have a blue bruise on my face.

The bruise on Subhi Shalaldeh’s back after a settler ran him over with an ATV. al-Qanub, 21 Dec. 2020
The bruise on Subhi Shalaldeh’s back after a settler ran him over with an ATV. al-Qanub, 21 Dec. 2020

Al-Qanub area, Hebron District: Armed settlers drive two shepherds out of pastureland and run one over with ATV

On Monday morning, 21 December 2020, Subhi (32) and Walid (35) Shalaldeh were out grazing their flock on pastureland they own in the area of al-Qanub, about five kilometers east of Sa’ir, in Hebron District. Israel has declared this land ‘state land’ and allocated it to area settlements, including the settlement of Asfar (Metzad) established in 1983 about three kilometers from the family’s home.  

At around 1:30 P.M., a vehicle with several settlers arrived. About 15 minutes later, they were joined by an ATV with four settlers, who were armed with handguns and had two dogs with them. The settlers hurled stones at the flock and set their dogs on them. Two of the settlers also attacked Walid Shalaldeh. The two brothers, who feared for their lives, gathered their flock and ran back towards their home.

Meanwhile, a family member called their parents, Muhammad (73) and Zuhour (66), and told them what had happened. The parents started running towards the pastureland. When they had gone about 70 meters, they saw their sons come running after the flock, with the settlers chasing them in the vehicle and the ATV. While Muhammad Shalaldeh was asking the settlers about their actions, the ATV driver hit his son Subhi, knocked him to the ground and drove over him again and again until Subhi blacked out.

At that point, Muhammad picked up a stone to throw at the ATV driver in order to protect his son, but the settler who was driving the other vehicle got out and pushed the ATV driver out of his seat.

Immediately afterwards, the settlers left. The family called the UN office and asked them to send an ambulance, which arrived about 15 minutes later and took Subhi to ‘Aliyah Hospital in Hebron. He was X-rayed and examined, and found to be suffering bruising. He was discharged at about 4:00 P.M.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bari, Subhi Shalaldeh recounted how the settlers attacked him and his brother and drove them out of the pastureland:

On Monday, 21December 2020, at around 1:30 P.M., my brother Walid and I were tending to our sheep on our land, about two kilometers away from our home and about five kilometers from the settlement of Metzad. A car with several settlers stopped next to us and we saw one of them talking on his mobile phone. He was probably calling more settlers to come.

About 15 minutes later, an ATV arrived with four settlers in their twenties. They had two huge, unleashed dogs with them. The moment the settlers reached us, they released the dogs, who started chasing the sheep. The settlers also started throwing stones at the sheep.

Two of the settlers attacked my brother Walid – slapping, punching, and kicking him. Walid and I didn’t even try to defend ourselves, because four or five of them had handguns and we were afraid they’d kill us. We tried to gather the scattered sheep and led them home. We thought the settlers had left.

In a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bari, Subhi’s mother, Zuhour Shalaldeh, described what happened next:

On 21 December 2020, I was sitting with my husband in front of our tents. Suddenly, a relative called and told us that settlers were attacking Subhi and Walid, who were out with the flock. My husband immediately called Walid, who answered the phone and said that settlers were attacking them and that they had dogs. Then he stopped talking and didn’t answer our questions, although he was still on the line. We heard shouting.

My husband and I ran towards the pastureland but after we moved about 70 meters away from the house, we couldn’t go on. We were out of breath and exhausted. My legs hurt and I couldn’t stand. We could see our sheep running towards the house from the area we’d reached, and then we saw Walid and Subhi running behind them and trying to control them.

Before Walid got a chance to tell us what happened, a car with three settlers armed with handguns drove up, followed by an ATV with two settlers and two huge dogs. My husband blocked the first car’s path and ask the driver for his name. The driver said his name was Ibrahim, and then my husband started talking with him and asking him why they’d attacked our sons.

At the same time, the ATV driver suddenly drove towards Subhi and hit him. Subhi fell on his back and then the ATV drove over him a few times, with the wheels going over both sides of his body, mostly hitting his arms and legs. Subhi fainted and the settler kept driving over him. He did that about three times. I froze at the sight. I cried and screamed and covered my face with dirt. Then I saw my husband pick up a large stone to throw it at the ATV driver, but the settler who called himself “Ibrahim” grabbed the driver and knocked him out of his seat. The ATV rant into the settlers’ car and turned off.

My husband and I picked Subhi up to get him away from there. He was unconscious and his clothes were torn. We took him about 20 meters away and laid him down by the roadside. The settlers got in their cars and fled. My husband called the UN office and asked them to call an ambulance. We live in a remote area and there’s no one who can help us. About 15 minutes later, a Red Crescent ambulance arrived and took Subhi to ‘Aliyah Hospital.

I’m still in shock. My whole body is in pain from the sight of the ATV running over my son. I can’t let go of it. I burst into tears whenever I remember that sight. Of course, I’m sad over both my sons and what happened to them. Subhi  still doesn’t feel well. His whole body is in pain.

Muhammad a-Tmeizi (13), hit in the head by a stone thrown by settlers at the truck he was traveling in, Route 60, Beit ‘Einun junction, 21 Dec. 2020. Photo by Manal al-Ja’bari, B’Tselem
Muhammad a-Tmeizi (13), hit in the head by a stone thrown by settlers at the truck he was traveling in, Route 60, Beit ‘Einun junction, 21 Dec. 2020. Photo by Manal al-Ja’bari, B’Tselem

Road 60, Beit ‘Einun: Settlers stone truck, causing head injury to 13-year-old

Since 16-year-old Israeli Ahuvia Sandak died during a police chase near the settlement of Kochav Hashachar on 21 December 2020, the number of violent settler attacks against Palestinians has sharply risen throughout the West Bank.

On 21 December 2020, at around 6:00 A.M., Muhammad a-Tmeizi, 34, drove his truck with a trailer hitched to it. His cousin Mahmoud a-Tmeizi, 13, was in the truck with him, and the two were making their way home to the village of Idhna, Hebron District. When they arrived at the neighborhood of Giv'at Haharsinah in the settlement of Kiryat Arba, they came across dozens of settlers who were blocking the road and signaling drivers to turn around. A-Tmeizi couldn’t make the turn due to the size of his truck and stopped in the middle of the road. Several minutes later, a police cruiser arrived, and the officers started pushing the settlers away from the road. One officer signaled to a-Tmeizi to drive on, and a police cruiser escorted him for several hundred meters until he left the area.

He kept driving until the entrance to Beit ‘Einun, where he noticed several settlers crossing the road. He slowed down, and the settlers began throwing stones at him. One penetrated through the front windshield, hitting 13-year-old Mahmoud in the face. A-Tmeizi himself received scratches from the glass shards. The settlers, meanwhile, ran off, and he continued driving until he came across a police cruiser and military jeeps at the Road 35 intersection to whom he reported the incident.

A-Tmeizi then drove to al-Ahali Hospital in Hebron, where Mahmoud was examined and x-rayed and had his forehead stitched. The two were released from hospital at around 11:00 P.M.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bri, 13-year-old Mahmoud a-Tmeizi, recounted the attack:

I’m an eighth-grader. Schools are closed now because of the coronavirus, and I’m bored sitting at home all the time. I started working with my cousin, Muhammad a-Tmeizi, hauling.

On Monday, 21 December 2020, at around 6:00 P.M., we were riding in his truck to Sa’ir. When we got to Road 60, before the Harsina gas station, we saw about 30 settlers blocking the road. They were gesturing to drivers that the road was closed. We couldn’t turn back because the truck has a trailer.  Muhammad kept driving slowly, and then a police car came, removed the settlers and signaled to him to keep driving. The police car drove in front of us until we were away from the settlers. We thought we were out of danger and kept driving toward Sa’ir.

Before we made it to the Beit ‘Einun traffic circle, we saw some more settlers crossing the road. Muhammad slowed down, and then suddenly, the settlers started throwing stones at the truck. I was really scared and started crying and screaming. I locked the truck doors from the inside and then a stone got in through the front windshield and hit my head. Glass shards flew and hit my face. I started bleeding.

Muhammad stopped the truck, and when the settlers saw that, they ran away. I was crying and groaning with pain, and Muhammad got me out of the truck to check on me. He wiped the blood off my face, and we both shook the glass shards out of our hair and off the truck seats and drove to the hospital in Hebron.  

In a testimony given to B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bri, Muhammad a-Tmeizi described what happened after the attack.

When we arrived at the Beit ‘Einun traffic circle, I saw two Israel Police cars and Border Police jeeps by the side of the road. I stopped the truck in the middle of the road; I literally blocked the road, got out and walked over to the officers, along with Mahmoud, whose forehead was still bleeding. They didn’t give him any first aid, just suggested we drive to the hospital and file a complaint at the Kiryat Arba police station. I unhitched the trailer from the truck, left it by the side of the road, and quickly drove to al-Ahali Hospital in Hebron, where they took care of Mahmoud’s injuries and gave him x-rays. We left the hospital at 11:00 P.M.

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Hilal Daraghmeh evacuated by ambulance after being beaten unconscious by settlers. ‘Um al-‘Ubar, 20 Dec. 2020. Photo by ‘Aref Daraghmeh, B’Tselem
Hilal Daraghmeh evacuated by ambulance after being beaten unconscious by settlers. ‘Um al-‘Ubar, 20 Dec. 2020. Photo by ‘Aref Daraghmeh, B’Tselem

Um al-‘Ubar, northern Jordan Valley: Settlers drive out Palestinian shepherds and beat one of them unconscious

On Sunday morning, 20 December 2020, Hilal Daraghmeh (28) and his cousin, both residents of Khirbet ‘Ein al-Hilweh, were out grazing their cattle in the area of Um al-‘Ubar. The pastureland lies about 100 meters west of Route 90.  

At around 8:00 A.M., after the two split up, about five settlers approached Hilal Daraghmeh and started driving his cattle away so they could graze their flock in the area. His cousin, who saw what was happening, grew frightened and led his cows away. Meanwhile, one of the settlers went over to Daraghmeh, hit him in the head, and kicked him until he lost consciousness and fell over. The settlers then left, and Daraghmeh’s cousin hurried back to him and called for help. A military vehicle and an Israeli ambulance arrived, and the medical team gave Daraghmeh first aid. About an hour later, a Red Crescent ambulance arrived and took Daraghmeh to hospital in Tubas, where he was examined and discharged.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher ‘Aref Daraghmeh, Hilal Daraghmeh described how the settlers attacked him:

I live in the area of Khirbet ‘Ein al-Hilweh and recently got married. I go out every morning with my cousins to graze my cows.

On 20 December 2020, my cousin and I went out with the cows as usual to the area of al-‘Ubar, which is about three kilometers from my home. My cousin was grazing his herd about 100 meters away from me.  

Suddenly, I saw several settlers I know, most of them from the settlement of Hemdat. They graze their herds there in the morning, too. They went over to our cows and started driving them away.

One of them came up to me, hit me in the face several times, and kicked me in several parts of my body until I blacked out. When I came to, I saw a military jeep arriving and then blacked out again. I woke up in an Israeli ambulance and felt dizzy. They transferred me to a Red Crescent ambulance that took me to hospital in Tubas, where I was examined and X-rayed. I was discharged a few hours later.  

We’ve been grazing our cows here quietly for many years, but in the last few years the settlers have started taking over the area and building outposts around us. They started grazing their herds in our pastureland. They have a lot of cows, which they spread out over the entire area and prevent us from accessing many places. They put up fences and closed off thousands of dunams of pastureland. Every day, they chase us, and sometimes they attack us. We’re forced to graze our herds along the sides of the main roads. It’s dangerous, but we have no choice.

The military stands by them, protects them and helps them drive us out of the pastureland. Sometimes the military even detains us for hours to stop us from going there.

The settlement of Shadmot Mehola was established about two kilometers northeast of the pastureland where Daraghmeh was attacked.

 

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A broken olive seedling in Ribhi Na’asan’s plot, al-Mughayir, 19 Dec. 2020. Photo by Nizar Na’asan
A broken olive seedling in Ribhi Na’asan’s plot, al-Mughayir, 19 Dec. 2020. Photo by Nizar Na’asan

Al-Mughayir, Ramallah District: Settlers break 40 olive seedlings

On Saturday morning, 19 December 2020, Rawhi a-Na’asan (69), a father of 17, discovered that settlers had broken 40 five-year-old olive seedlings he had planted in his plot. This is not the first time a-Na’asan has faced damage to his crops: on May 2020, he discovered 52 broken seedlings in his plot, a day after soldiers invaded it, threatened a farmer who was working in a nearby plot and drove him away from the area.

A-Na’asan’s plot lies east of the Alon Road (Route 458).

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Kafr Malik, Ramallah District: Palestinians protesting against outpost driven out with gunfire by settlers and dispersed with stun grenades and tear gas by soldiers

On 18 December 2020, at around 11:00 A.M., about 60 residents of Kafr Malik held a demonstration against a new outpost that settlers set up in early November 2020 near the community of Ras a-Tin, which lies southeast of the village. The outpost occupants have been attacking and harassing farmers and shepherds in the area and scaring them off the land. The residents hold weekly protests in the area. On 4 December 2020, soldiers fatally shot ‘Ali Abu ‘Alia (14), while he watched a protest against the same outpost near his village, al-Mughayir.

This time, the residents gathered at a farm near Ras a-Tin and started marching towards the outpost, which lies about two kilometers away. Within minutes, two vehicles arrived and about eight masked settlers got out, carrying clubs. One of them fired several gunshots at the protesters.

The residents dispersed and moved away. At that point, a military jeep drove up and three soldiers got out. They tried to separate the settlers from the residents, but did not detain the settler who had fired the shots, although they saw him walking around with his gun drawn and residents informed them that he had fired at them. 

Meanwhile, two other vehicles drew up with eight more settlers, who had two large dogs with them. Two of the settlers grabbed the dogs by the leash and ran towards the protesters, making threatening motions, while the soldiers tried to block their path. Several residents began throwing stones at the settlers to fend off the dogs. Later on, four other military jeeps drove up. Soldiers got out and started hurling stun grenades and firing tear gas canisters at the residents, until they drove them all out around midday.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, Yusef Ka’abneh (28), a married father of four who owns a farm in the Ras a-Tin area, described the protest and the settlers’ attack:

Since a settler set up an outpost about two kilometers from our homes, he and his friends have been harassing us, grazing their flocks on our land and provoking us. He wears a skullcap (kippah) and I think he’s armed. A gang of criminals live with him – about eight to ten young guys in their twenties.

On the morning of 18 December 2020, I was grazing my flock about two kilometers from my farm when I saw the weekly protest procession heading there. I left the flock to graze and went quickly back to the farm, because I was afraid a confrontation would develop with the settlers and that my family would get hurt. The protesters were holding signs and waving Palestinian flags. Meanwhile, I saw two cars set out from the outpost in our direction. About eight settlers got out of it, holding clubs, and walked over until they were about 30 or 40 meters away from us. Three of them hid behind our tractor and one of them drew a gun, held it in both hands and started firing shot after shot. Thank God he didn’t hit anyone. Everyone ran and hid the moment the shooting started.

A few minutes later, soldiers showed up. They always come quickly to protect the settlers. The soldiers stood between us and the settlers. The settler was still holding his gun and didn’t seem to fear the soldiers. His friends tried to go round them and attack the protesters. Meanwhile, more settlers showed up, two of them leading large, scary dogs. They tried to chase the protesters and set their dogs on them, and the soldiers tried unsuccessfully to keep them away.

After another few minutes, back-up forces arrived and the soldiers started firing tear gas canisters at the protesters, who scattered quickly. Luckily, the wind was blowing in the opposite direction, so the gas didn’t reach my family and me. Meanwhile, more and more settlers kept arriving, and the military didn’t block their way.
Since that incident, we’ve been even more afraid of the settlers. We’re scared they’ll attack us at any time and we’re always on edge. These settlers are violent and extreme. They’ve attacked people in the area many times. I pray that Allah will protect us from their evil.

Wadi a-Rahim, South Hebron Hills, Photo: Comet
Wadi a-Rahim, South Hebron Hills, Photo: Comet

Wadi a-Rahim, South Hebron Hills: Settlers beat local residents, fire in the air and try to take over their lands

On the morning of 18 December 2020, Muhammad al-Harini, 54, a father of seven from Yatta, was grazing his flock with his father, Khalil, 78, who lives in the community of Wadi a-Rahim in the South Hebron Hills, on family land adjacent to the community’s home. The land stretches over some 400 dunams.

While the two were out in the pastureland, about 20 settlers appeared, some with firearms, others with bats. They demanded the two leave the area and threatened them. One of the settlers pushed Khalil al-Harini, knocking him over. His son Muhammad called B’Tselem’s field researcher, who alerted the police. Moments later, a military vehicle, a police car and a Civil Administration officer arrived. The latter told both the landowners and the settlers they were not permitted at the site and everyone left.

The next morning, Muhammad al-Harini returned to the family land with four other relatives to plow. Having plowed about 20 dunams, they saw about 20 settlers approaching and decided to leave and return to the community to avoid a dangerous encounter.

Driving away the locals was not enough for the settlers who followed them up to a distance of about 20 meters from the community’s homes. The family blocked their path. The settlers threatened them, attacked four community residents, injuring one, a 17-year-old boy, in the ear with a stone. One settler fired several shots. Fortunately, no one was hurt. The frightened family members called B’Tselem’s researcher again. He alerted the police, which arrived a few minutes later, with a  military jeep escort. The settlers then ran off.

A police officer took a statement from the boy who had been injured, and his relatives drove him to Abu al-Hassan Hospital in Yatta, where he was diagnosed with an injury to the auditory canal and ossicle.

In a testimony he gave B'Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash, Muhammad al-Harini spoke about the second settler attack on his family:

On Saturday 19 December 2020, I went to our land, which is near the houses in the community, with my brother ‘Amer, 38, and his three sons, Mahmoud, 17, ‘Ali, 20, and Saqer, 19, to plow the fields. We had plowed about 20 dunams and then saw settlers heading towards us. We didn’t want an altercation, so we went back to the family home in the community.

The settlers followed us up to the houses and stopped at a distance of about 20 meters. They started threatening us and tried to advance further. We went out and tried to block them. There were more than 20 settlers there with handguns, rifles, bats and crowbars. I saw my nephew, ‘Ali, 20, filming the incident on his phone. A settler approached him and hit him in the face with his handgun. Mahmoud, 17, tried to break them up, and the same settler hit him in the left ear with a stone he had in his other hand. Mahmoud’s ear started bleeding and he lost his balance.

My brother ‘Amer and I went over to them, and then one of the settlers kicked me in the back and another threw a stone that hit me in the arm. Another settler kicked ‘Amer in the chest and knee. We fought them for about half an hour, throwing stones at them to drive them off. One of the settlers fired about ten shots with his handgun. I called Nasser Nawaj’ah from B'Tselem and asked him to call the police, and a few minutes later some military vehicles and a police car arrived. That’s when the settlers ran off.

We went to our land. The police officers and soldiers were there, and a settler, whom we know by the name of Ya’aKov, came with another female settler. The officers spoke with them and told us  to go home. Ya’aKov brought a tractor driver with him who started plowing the same plot we had plowed that morning. He was filming the tractor as it was plowing. The officers and soldiers did nothing.

Mahmoud’s ear was hurting, and after a police officer took his statement, I drove him to the Abu al-Hassan government hospital in Yatta. He was examined and x-rayed and it turned out his auditory canal and nerve had been hurt. The doctor cleaned the blood from his ear and referred him to an ear, nose and throat specialist. He has been seeing a specialist in Yatta ever since.

On Sunday, 21 December 2020, the settler Ya’aKov, came to our land in an ATV and deliberately drove over plowed fields we’d already planted in. We saw him from inside our homes, but we chose not to get into an altercation with the settlers. They are armed criminals who are backed up by the military and police which arrested none of them when they attacked us.

The settlement of Susiya was established in 1983 1.5 kilometers southeast of Wadi a-Rahim.

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 Khirbet al-Markez in Masafer Yata. Photo by Oren Ziv, Activestills
Khirbet al-Markez in Masafer Yata. Photo by Oren Ziv, Activestills

Masafer Yatta: Settlers violently invaded Palestinian communities, allegedly looking for stolen sheep. They threatened and assaulted two residents and left with the sheep

For three days, settlers from the outpost of Mitzpe Yair repeatedly invaded five Palestinian communities in Masafer Yatta. The five marauding settlers, who are known to the communities, entered their homes and livestock pens to allegedly search for stolen sheep. The settlers shouted at the residents and threatened them. In two cases, they physically assaulted them, breaking one resident’s tooth. On the third day, the settlers claimed to have found the stolen sheep in a livestock pen in one of the communities. The Israeli police allowed the settlers to take about 10 sheep. 

The settlers’ domineering behavior continued the next day, when one of them went to the She’b al-Batem area and drove out a farmer who was grazing his flock. 

The evening of 17 December 2020: Settlers invade the community of Khirbet Bir al-‘Eid

Five settlers came to the community and claimed to be looking for stolen sheep. They placed boulders on the road leading to the community’s homes and blocked the residents’ way. When one resident tried to drive through with a tractor, one settler pulled out a gun and threatened him. The driver had no choice but to turn back and take another route.

18 December 2020, 1:30 A.M.: Settlers invade the community of She’b al-Batem, wake residents, threaten them and kick one

The next morning, five settlers came to the community of She’b al-Batem. A settler known to the residents as "Yosef" and another settler approached the home of 'Ali Jibrin (64), a father of 11. When Jibrin heard them and opened the door, "Yosef" began shouting at him, kicking his legs, and threatening to “make trouble for him” if he didn't divulge the sheep's whereabouts. Jibrin tried to explain that he didn't know where the sheep were, but the settler continued shouting and pushed Jibrin’s young children, who had woken up from the commotion and come to their father. At that point, Jibrin’s brother, who lives next door, reported the incident to the police. The settlers stayed near the family’s doorstep for about 20 minutes and then moved on to the home of his brother, Ismail Jibrin (53), a father of six. They shouted at him and threatened him, and left about 10 minutes later.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhsash, ‘Ali Jibrin described how the settler known as “Yosef” threatened and assaulted him:

At around 1:30 A.M., I woke up to loud sounds of people near the entrance of our home. I went over to the door and saw two people. That night we didn’t have electricity, but one of the settlers had a flashlight, and I recognized him: he grazes his flock in the area, and his name is “Yosef.”

Suddenly, without us even talking, the settler kicked me very hard in the left leg and yelled at me in Arabic, “Where are my sheep?” I asked him which sheep he meant, and he said, “You stole my sheep!” I asked him if he’d seen me stealing them, and he said no, but that he wanted to know who had stolen his sheep.

At that moment, my four children, the eldest of whom is 16, woke up and came over to me. The settler shoved them and yelled at them to stay back. Even though he’d attacked my children and me, I tried to stay calm and not confront them, because then I would’ve been arrested. I asked my eldest son Amin (15) to run to my brother Ismail’s house and ask him to call the Israeli police. “Yosef” said he’d go to Ismail’s house himself.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhsash, Ismail Jibrin recalled how the settlers also came to his house, entered it by force and threatened him:

I was woken by shouting from my brother ‘Ali’s house. Someone was shouting that he was crazy and wanted to make trouble. I recognized that it was the voice of a settler named “Yosef” who grazes his flock in the area. Everyone knows him around here. I called the Israeli police and told them what was happening, and they promised to come quickly.

I waited about 20 minutes. I didn’t know what the settler wanted from ‘Ali. In the end, I saw him leave ‘Ali’s home and come towards my house with another young settler. Both of them came into my home. I tried to stop them, but they pushed me and went inside anyway.

My whole family woke up, and the kids were scared. That night we didn’t have electricity. We use solar planes to generate electricity.

“Yosef” came up me and yelled that he was crazy and had come to make trouble, and that he wanted to know who’d stolen his sheep. I tried to calm him down, but he pushed me a few times and kept yelling at me. They left about 10 minutes later.

18 December 2020, 4:30 A.M.: Settlers invade the community of Khirbet al-Markez, assault resident, drag him to their car and question him

A few hours later, at around 4:30 A.M., five settlers drove up in three vehicles to the Hushiyeh family home in the community of Khirbet al-Markez.  Samira Hushiyeh (66) got up for dawn prayers and when she heard the settlers, she woke her son ‘Omar Hushiyeh (37), a father of three. When he opened the front door, one of the settlers punched him in the face, and another hit him in the arm with a gun butt. Two settlers dragged ‘Omar out of the house and knocked him to the ground. His mother Samira, his wife Najah (28) and their three children began crying and tried to leave the house to help ‘Omar, but the settlers who had stayed behind closed the door forcefully and blocked it.

The settlers dragged ‘Omar to one of their vehicles and questioned him about the sheep that they claimed had been stolen from them. About an hour later, the settlers released him and moved several meters away from the house, and the family managed to get out. ‘Omar’s lips were bleeding and one of his teeth was broken. The settlers stayed in the area and observed the community until the late morning hours. 

In a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhsash, Samira Hushiyeh, a married mother of 13, spoke about the settlers’ invasion:

I woke up at 4:30 A.M. to prepare for dawn prayers, and heard noises and the sounds of car engine near my home. At first, I thought it was the cars of laborers going to work or military vehicles. I woke my son ‘Omar and his wife, who were sleeping in the next room, and told them what I’d heard. ‘Omar told me not to turn the lights on and tried to calm me down.

I looked out the window and saw five people going to the sheep’s pen. They had flashlights and the headlights of their cars were also on. I understood they were settlers by their white clothes. I turned on the lights so they’d understand there were people home. I was afraid they’d hurt our sheep.

In a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash, Samira’s daughter-in-law, Najah Hushiyeh (28), a mother of three, described the settlers’ invasion and the attack on her husband:

My mother-in-law woke us up and turned the lights on a few minutes later. Then, I heard people at the door and someone asking in Arabic, “Where’s the master of the house?” ‘Omar got up and went to the door, and I followed. I realized they were settlers by their clothes. I was terrified and stood behind my mother-in-law.

When ‘Omar opened the door, one of them punched him in the face, and the other hit him in the elbow with a gun butt and pulled him out of the house. He stopped us from going after ‘Omar and closed the door. I was shaking and screaming, and our three children woke up and started crying, too. My mother-in-law tried to open the door, but one of the settlers was holding it from the other side and wouldn’t let her open it. She yelled, “Where’s ‘Omar?” My mother-in-law, my children and I stayed trapped in  the house for about an hour.

In her testimony, Samira Hushiyeh further recounted:

About an hour later, I managed to leave the house. I couldn’t see ‘Omar and was afraid they’d done something to him. I asked one of the settlers who was standing next to the cars what they’d done to my son, and he answered in Arabic that he’d be back soon. I calmed down a little. I was standing behind the house when suddenly, I saw ‘Omar get out of one of the cars. His lips were bleeding. I went back inside with him and saw that one of his teeth was broken from the punch he got earlier. I understood from ‘Omar that after they forced him out of the house, they dragged him to their car and questioned him about sheep stolen from Mitzpe Yair. He told them he had nothing to do with it and knew nothing about it.

18 December 2020, 9:30 A.M.: Settlers invade the community of Khirbet al Fakhit and roam among livestock pens

At around 9:30 A.M., the settlers moved on to the community of Khirbet al Fakhit, where they entered livestock pens and roamed them for about half an hour until leaving empty-handed.
 
19 December 2020, afternoon: Settlers invade the community of Khirbet a-Safai al-Foqa, where they allegedly locate the stolen sheep

The next afternoon, about 50 settlers, some armed with rifles and others leading attack dogs, came to the community of Khirbet a-Safai al-Foqa. They entered the community’s livestock pens and searched for the sheep they alleged had been stolen from them. An argument developed between the settlers and the residents, including mutual shoving. About an hour later, dozens of soldiers and Border Police officers, a police car and Civil Administration personnel arrived. The settlers told the police they had found their sheep in one of the community’s pens, and the officers allowed them to take the sheep. Then everyone left.

A few days later, the resident in whose pen the sheep were allegedly found was summoned to by the police, interrogated and released without charges.

20 December 2020, 10:30 A.M.: Settlers attack a shepherd in the She’b al-Batem area

The day after the settlers invaded Khirbet a-Safai al-Foqa, ‘Issa Jibrin (44), a father of seven, was out grazing his flock about a kilometer from his home in the community of She’b al-Batem. At around 10:30 A.M., the settler known as “Yosef” from Mitzpe Yair arrived and started hitting the sheep and scattering them with a stick. The sheep scattered in alarm. When Jibrin tried to stand in front of the settler to prevent him from attacking the flock, the settler pushed him and then called for back-up. About 20 minutes later, two more settlers appeared and also started to drive Jibrin’s flock out. Jibrin moved away with his sheep and returned home.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhsash, ‘Issa Jibrin related:

When the settler called “Yosef” started hitting my sheep, I stood in front of him to stop him from hurting them. He came up to me and pushed me, and then phoned somebody, probably to call for back-up. I didn’t want to confront them and preferred to just leave. I walked away with the flock and left the three settlers there. I saw them talking and pointing at me, and I was afraid they’d follow me and attack me, so I walked quickly until I got home.

I usually stay in the pastureland with the flock until the afternoon, but that day I was back by 11:00 A.M.  
 
Everyone in Masafer Yatta knows this settler, “Yosef”, because he often grazes his flock near our homes and bothers us. The Israeli police officers know him, too.

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A shattered windshield in ‘Aref Jaber’s car, al-Baq’ah, 11 Dec. 2020. Photo by Human Rights Defenders
A shattered windshield in ‘Aref Jaber’s car, al-Baq’ah, 11 Dec. 2020. Photo by Human Rights Defenders

East of Hebron: Settlers invade private plot and build structure; when the owner arrives, settlers attack his car and smash windshield and headlights

On Friday, 11 December 2020, ‘Aref Jaber (46), a married father of six from Hebron, went to his plot, which lies east of the city, along with several residents and activists to protest against a structure settlers had set up there. The neighborhood of Giv’at Harsina in the settlement of Kiryat Arba was established about a kilometer from the plot.

The structure settlers set up on ‘Aref Jaber’s plot, 11 Dec. 2020. Photo by Human Rights Defenders

While Jaber, the residents, and the activists were in the plot, seven settlers arrived, some of them armed. One of the settlers fired two shots in the air. Four others began throwing stones at Jaber’s car from several meters away, smashing its rear windshield and headlights. Jaber and his companions were forced to leave the area for fear of being harmed as well.

On Sunday, 20 December 2020, Jaber filed a complaint about the assault at the police station in Kiryat Arba and fixed his car at a cost of 500 shekels (~158 USD). A few days later, Jaber went to his land with the activists, and together they dismantled the settlers’ structure.

Jaber’s land stretches over 25 dunams [1 dunam = 1,000 sq. meters], not far from the village of al-Baq’ah.

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A mutilated olive tree in Yasuf, 5 Dec. 2020. Photo by head of village council
A mutilated olive tree in Yasuf, 5 Dec. 2020. Photo by head of village council

Yasuf, Nablus District: At the end of harvest season, settlers cut down 42 yielding olive trees

On Saturday morning, 5 December 2020, members of the ‘Atyani family – farmers from the village of Yasuf – discovered that settlers had cut down 42 of the 104 olive trees growing on their plot, which stretches over six dunams [1 dunam = 1,000 sq. meters] of land southeast of the village.

The Israeli military permits the family to enter the plot only after coordinating the visit with the Civil Administration, which allows them access only during the plowing and harvest seasons. However, family members routinely go to the grove without prior coordination to tend to needs such as pruning and fertilizing after the harvest.

The day after the family discovered the mutilated trees, they went to the grove with the head of the local council and representatives of the Palestinian ministry of agriculture, who were asked to assess the damage. When they reached their plot, they noticed three settlers inside it who then fled the scene.

The settlement of Rehelim was established in 1991 about two kilometers from the olive grove.

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The Yasin family’s plot, Yasuf, 3 Dec. 2020. Photo by Salma a-Deb’i, B'Tselem
The Yasin family’s plot, Yasuf, 3 Dec. 2020. Photo by Salma a-Deb’i, B'Tselem

Yasuf, Nablus District: Settler cut chain-link fence, invade plot and uproot dozens of olive seedlings

On Thursday morning, 3 December 2020, ‘Abdallah Yasin (28) discovered that settlers had cut the chain-link fence he and his family had put up around their plot to protect it from settlers and wild animals. The fence did not deter the invaders from breaking into the plot and uprooting 58 olive seedlings planted earlier this year. Yasin notified his family, the village council and the Israel Police of the incident.

About an hour after reporting the damage, Yasin went to the plot with his father ‘Ali (71). A police car, Civil Administration personnel and a military jeep also arrived and witnessed the damage to the family’s property.

The Yasin family’s plot lies northeast of the town of Yasuf. The settlement of Tapuach was established about 200 meters away from it.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, ‘Ali Yasin recounted the incident:

We used the coronavirus and lockdown period to tend to the soil. We went to the plot often to water the seedlings, until the rainy season started and we didn’t have to. We put up a chain-link fence supported by iron rods, a meter and a half high, to protect the crops from settlers and wild animals. Despite the fence, settlers invaded our plot and uprooted 45 of the 93 olive seedlings we planted this February. They also uprooted 13 of 15 seedlings in my brother Shaher’s plot. We haven’t been to the grove since the rain started in October, and my son only went back now to check on the seedlings.

An hour after we found the fence destroyed and the seedlings uprooted, a police car arrived, followed by people from the Civil Administration and a military jeep. The soldier asked us if we had any enemies. I said that didn’t make sense because the settlement’s security cameras overlook the plot, so why not check the footage? It’s completely ridiculous, and they obviously  know very well who did this. They said they’d call me if they found anything new, but I haven’t heard from them. I know everything they do is just for show, and the investigation by the authorities will lead nowhere. 

November 2020

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a-Sawiyah, Nablus District: Settlers steal from plant nursery for fifth time since it opened in 2019

Muhammad Mahamid (29), a father of two from a-Sawiyah, Nablus District, has a plant nursery by Route 60, at the entrance to the village. On 27 November 2020, at around 2:00 A.M., before going to bed, he checked the nursery’s security camera and saw people loading seedlings onto a car. According to Mahamid, settlers had broken into the nursery and stolen items four times prior to that, most recently in early November.

Mahamid got into his car and sped to the nursery, where he rammed into the settlers’ parked car. The settlers got out and fled towards the settlement of Rehelim, which lies about a kilometer and a half from the nursery.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, Mahamid described the night of the last break-in:

While I was getting ready to go to bed, I checked the nursery’s security cameras on my mobile phone. I was shocked when I saw people loading seedlings onto a car! I went crazy.

I couldn’t bear the thought of the theft. It wasn’t the first time settlers broke into the nursery. I ran out in shorts, and my wife came after me and handed me long pants. I put them on in the car, because I wanted to catch the thieves this time or else I’d go mad. I drove quickly and got to the nursery in three minutes.

Their car was still parked by the entrance. All I wanted was to catch them, so I ran into their car – so that they couldn’t get away. My head hit the steering wheel and I couldn’t see anything, but I still got out of the car and tried to catch them. Unfortunately, they managed to run towards the settlement of Rehelim, which is about a kilometer and a half from there.

Mahamid called the Israel Police and about 15 minutes later, police officers arrived along with 10 military jeeps. They photographed the scene and collected the settlers’ fingerprints. A few hours later, the officers drove Mahamid to the Ariel police station, where he gave a statement and was released.

In his testimony, Mahamid added:

The last theft, on November 1, ruined me. They weren’t content with stealing from the nursery itself but stole the entire contents of my store – including drinks, chocolate, cigarettes and ice cream.

I can’t take anymore losses. I want to live, make a living and support my family. I don’t want trouble with anyone – Palestinians or settlers. I wasn’t looking to confront them, but I had no choice because it’s my property, which is my family’s only source of income.

A toilet broken by settlers on Rajeh Jbarah’s land, Turmusaya, 27 Nov. 2020. Photo by Sai’d ‘Abdallah
A toilet broken by settlers on Rajeh Jbarah’s land, Turmusaya, 27 Nov. 2020. Photo by Sai’d ‘Abdallah

Turmusaya, Ramallah District: For the second time in a month – settlers vandalize vineyard and cause heavy damage to nearby plot

On 27 November 2020, for the second time that month, settlers broke into a vineyard owned by Nidal Rabi’ (68), a father of three from Turmusaya. They cut down some 250 vines and vandalized the vineyard’s perimeter fence and its irrigation system.

The settlers also broke into a neighboring plot belonging to Rajeh Jbarah (55), a father of 10, where they vandalized a garden and a swimming pool. The settlers broke tiles and a toilet in the bathrooms and in the pool, cut the garden’s perimeter fence, and cut down seven olive trees.

The landowners reported the damage to the Israel Police, who arrived the same day and photographed the scene.

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A mutilated tree in the Bazar family’s plot, Beitillu, 23 Nov. 2020. Photo by Hasan Bazar
A mutilated tree in the Bazar family’s plot, Beitillu, 23 Nov. 2020. Photo by Hasan Bazar

Beitillu, Ramallah District: Settlers cut down four 50-year-old olive trees

On the afternoon of 23 November 2020, a resident of Beitillu was on his way to his land when he noticed about five masked settlers cutting down olive trees in a plot belonging to another village farmer. The plot in question lies east of the village, and the settlement of Nahliel was established about 300 meters away from it.   

The resident phoned the landowner and the Beitillu village council to report what he had seen. About half an hour later, the landowner, Hassan Bazar (30), a father of three, arrived at the plot with several villagers. When the settlers noticed them, they fled towards Nahliel.

Bazar discovered that the settlers had managed to cut down four 50-year-old olive trees in his plot. He reported the incident to the Palestinian DCO and the next day, a representative of the Civil Administration arrived and registered his complaint.

Burin, Nablus District: Settlers falsely accuse Palestinian of stone-throwing and set out on a rampage in his plot. Soldiers do not intervene to protect the family’s property

In the early morning hours of Monday, 23 November 2020, nine members of the ‘Umran family set out to plant and sow fruit and vegetables. The adults were joined by five children, ranging in age from two to 15, and they went together to their plot that stretches about five dunams south of Burin. At around 10:00 P.M., while work was in progress, three soldiers came from the direction of the nearby military watchtower and asked the family if they had seen young men throwing stones at the road. The family members replied negatively. The soldiers stayed in the area for several minutes and then left.

About 10 minutes later, around seven settlers arrived along with the same three soldiers. The settlers, some of whom were armed with handguns, began yelling and cursing at the family. They claimed that the father, Yasser ‘Umran (39), was the one who had thrown stones at the road. The soldiers ordered the family to leave the plot, and then the settlers started scattering the seeds, uprooting seedlings, and destroying the family’s property. They also destroyed food, books, and clothes the family members had brought with them. The family was forced to move from their land to a nearby plot, where they waited for about an hour until the settlers and the soldiers left. When they returned to their plot, they discovered the extent of the destruction the settlers had left behind. At that point, a military jeep arrived and stayed in the area until the family went home at around 4:00 P.M.

In a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, Suha ‘Umran (37), a married mother of eight from Burin, recounted:

We planted fig, plum, and loquat seedlings. About a week ago, we plowed the land, and on Monday, we came there to sow beans, garlic, onion, potatoes, and strawberries. We hoped the crops would provide us with extra income because since the coronavirus started, my husband’s income from his work as a barber has really gone down.

My sister-in-law Najwa (52) and her son’ Iz a-Din came with us. We were in the middle of work, and I was about to make some tea, when three soldiers arrived from the nearby watchtower. They spoke in Hebrew with my husband, and later I understood that they’d claimed there were stone-throwers in the area, and they asked if we’d seen them. About 15 minutes later, the soldiers left, and we continued working. Ten minutes after that, the soldiers came back with seven to 10 settlers, who started yelling at us. They all wore masks, and some of them had guns in their belts. They cursed at us in Hebrew, but I understood when they said, “Son of a bitch.”

My husband, who knows Hebrew, told me later that the settlers accused him of throwing stones at the road.

My daughter Rimal (2), who I was holding, started crying and screaming out of fear, and so did my son al-‘Uqab (5) and my daughter ‘Abir (4). I tried to calm them down and told them to get away, but they didn’t want to go without me, and I didn’t want to leave my husband there alone, surrounded by settlers.

The soldiers demanded again and again that we leave. Some of the settlers started taking our belongings and throwing them all over. They also scattered some of the seeds we’d brought with us, our food and drink, and the schoolbags the children brought to do homework and study for exams. The settlers also tore the children’s schoolbooks. They even threw our mats on the road. One settler emptied our teapot on the campfire, and when I asked him why he did that, he made a throat-slitting gesture.

Meanwhile, my husband and my nephew ‘Iz a-Din argued with the settlers and refused to leave. My husband tried to explain to them that we were on our land and that we weren’t responsible for what was happening on the road. But they wouldn’t listen, and, in the end, we drew back to a neighboring plot. The settlers kept throwing and destroying everything.

We stood and watched what the settlers and the soldiers were doing on our land. After they left, we came back to the plot, and what we saw there was truly sad. Nothing was left intact. They destroyed everything. They even broke the new seedlings we’d planted. I found some of Rimal’s clothes in a nearby thorn field. The settlers also stole two hoes, a pick-ax, and a rake. We gathered what we could save and replanted the seeds. At one point, a military jeep arrived and stayed in the area until we went home, at around 4:00 P.M.

When we came home, the kids were still in shock. Adam couldn’t study for the test he had. He just kept staring at the book the settlers had torn. ‘Abir told me, “I’m afraid the soldiers will take you and put you in jail.” The incident really affected them. I even heard them talking in their sleep, and they woke up several times at night. The next day, I walked them to school and bought them new books.

In a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, Najwa ‘Umran (52), a married mother of eight from Nablus, also described the incident:

Usually, we don’t encounter any problems when we go to our land. Soldiers often arrive and ask us what we’re doing there, and we reply that we’re working our land, and they don’t do anything. What happened this time was unbelievable.

Until the soldiers and the settlers arrived, we enjoyed nature and the beautiful weather. We worked, talked, and laughed together.

I didn’t really understand what they wanted, if our presence there just bothered them or if someone had really thrown stones at them as the military claimed. We didn’t see anything like that. The area we were in was completely quiet, and traffic on the Yitzhar road flowed normally.

I got so mad when I saw the settlers destroying everything, but I held back so my son and my brother wouldn’t get upset, too. Instead, I told them, “Let them do what they want. The most important thing is that you’re safe and sound. The rest can be replaced.” I wanted to calm them down because we had no choice but to be patient. After all, the military protects the settlers and does nothing for us.

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