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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

February 2020

4
Ahmad Abu Diya
Ahmad Abu Diya

“Go to Abbas, let him compensate you!”

A story that begins with a stolen donkey, continues with stones thrown at its owner, and ends with the DCO’s disdainful refusal to pay compensation and even accept a complaint against the settlers.

In early January 2020, Ahmad Abu Diya, 24, a shepherd from the village of a-Lubban a-Sharqiyah, led his flock of sheep to graze in the area of Wadi Yasuf, near which the settlement of Rehelim was established. He tied the donkey and grazed the sheep close by. Suddenly, he noticed 10 settlers untying the rope and taking the donkey towards the settlement. As he couldn’t leave the sheep, he stayed put. The next day, Abu Diya went to Rehelim to get his donkey back. Since the military forbids Palestinians to enter settlements, Abu Diya lodged his complaint with the guard at the entrance to the settlement, who replied he would check the matter and get back to him.

A month passed. On 4 February, Abu Diya noticed his donkey standing by a tent erected by settlers between his village, a-Lubban a-Sharqiyah, and the village of a-Sawiyah. Together with his friend, Jihad ‘Awaisa, Abu Diya went to the settlement to try once again to get his donkey back. The guards sent the two to wait in ‘Awaisa’s car, at the entrance to the settlement. While they were waiting, four settlers suddenly appeared and threw stones at the car. The windscreen shattered and other stones hit the chassis. 
The two friends fled and drove to the police station at the settlement of Ariel to file a complaint. After waiting two hours there, they were referred to the Israeli DCO to file a complaint and receive compensation for the damage. And the DCO? The officials there didn’t understand what the problem was and suggested ‘Awaisa complain to Mahmoud Abbas: “Why”, asked a police officer disparagingly, “does Abbas compensate me if you damage my car?”.

Abu Diya did not get his donkey back. ‘Awaisa paid 700 shekels to replace his windscreen, but the body of the car remains damaged. So does his pride.

Jihad ‘Awaisa

A-Lubban a-Sharqiyah, 4 February 2020: Settlers steal donkey and damage Palestinian car.

3
Deir Dobwan, 3 Feb. 2020 – tires slashed on 27 cars, hate graffiti sprayed.
Deir Dobwan, 3 Feb. 2020 – tires slashed on 27 cars, hate graffiti sprayed.

Twenty-seven work days and tens of thousands of shekels down the drain

Security cameras in the Palestinian village of Deir Dobwan, east of Ramallah, reveal what occurred at night: three masked settlers infiltrated the southern neighborhoods of the village, vandalized the tires of cars and sprayed graffiti on walls and houses.

The next morning, Sunday, 3 March 2020, the outcome was discovered: 27 slashed tires and six graffiti messages. One called to “drive out the enemy”, while another gave “regards from Kumi Uri” ("Kumi Uri" is a settlement point).

Village residents who read these messages understand this is not a passing rude visit, but a promise that the settlers will keep coming back until they achieve their goal: driving the residents out. 

The victims of the violent incursion had to replace their tires, at an estimated cost of 2,000 shekels (~550 USD) per car. They  lost valuable workdays and had to find their children an alternative ride to school.

The villagers cannot promise their frightened children that the incident will not recur. Israeli and Palestinian DCO representatives did arrive at the scene, photograph the damage and collect material from security cameras.

Yet as the residents know all too well, from their own experience and that of other villages in the West Bank, no one will punish the perpetrators or prevent them from returning and carrying out their plans. 

 

Deir Dobwan, 3 Feb. 2020 – tires slashed on 27 cars, hate graffiti sprayed. 

January 2020

31
Madama, 31 January 2020: Settlers attack home with stones while soldiers shoot tear gas and “rubber” bullets at village residents.
Madama, 31 January 2020: Settlers attack home with stones while soldiers shoot tear gas and “rubber” bullets at village residents.

Stones, tear gas and “rubber” bullets: Settlers raid Madama with full support of army

On Friday, 31 Jan. 2020, at around 1:00 P.M., some 20 settlers, escorted by about 10 soldiers, attacked the home of Zahiyah (36) and Khalil (46) Qut. The incident occurred while the couple and their eight children, between the ages of three to sixteen, were at home in the southern part of the village of Madama.

The settlers, some of whom were masked and carried slingshots, came from the direction of the settlement of Yitzhar and started throwing stones at the house. Two windows in the children’s room shattered. Zahiyah’s eldest son, Naser a-Din, 16, went outside to see what was going on. Meanwhile, Zahiyah and Khalil quickly closed all the windows and locked the door. The soldiers, who arrived together with the settlers, stood around the house and did nothing to stop the settlers attacking it. Instead, they started shooting tear gas canisters and rubber-coated metal bullets at village residents who came to help the family, and kept them from coming near the house. 

 
In a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, Zahiyah Qut described what she and her children went through: 

I went into the children’s room, which faces south, and saw more than twenty settlers. Some of them were masked and some were holding slingshots. They were about twenty or thirty meters away from our house and were throwing stones at it. I also saw two army jeeps parked by the house. 
My four little ones were crying. I didn’t know what to do, it was all so sudden and scary. The settlers continued throwing stones. I felt I was about to collapse. I opened the door and saw four soldiers standing right at the entrance. One of them shouted at me to close the door. I said to him: “For God’s sake, there are little children here and the settlers broke the windows.” My kids were standing behind me, crying. The soldier pushed me into the house and closed the door. The house was full of the smell of tear gas and my daughter Nur, 12, was nauseous and pale.

When more and more village residents began to gather, the settlers and soldiers moved away from the house and started withdrawing towards the settlement of Yitzhar. An ambulance team arrived and treated Naser, who had gone outside when the assault began and blacked out after inhaling a large quantity of tear gas, and one of the children, who was lightly injured by a broken window. The settlers also broke a lamp at the entrance to the house and damaged three trees in the garden and five of the neighbors’ trees. One of the residents who came to help the family was hit in the leg by a “rubber” bullet a soldier fired at him. 

This is the second attack by settlers on the homes of Madama residents in January 2020.
 
Zahiyah further related:  

"We couldn’t sleep all night. We were afraid we’d be attacked again, especially because the windows were broken. We felt we were in danger. We thought the iron grating we installed on the windows would protect us from the settlers’ stones, but it turned out that it doesn’t really protect us and we’re afraid they’ll throw something flammable in and kill us all. The children don’t want to leave the house. My son Zein, 5, told me he doesn’t want to stay in this house and wants to move to another house in the village. Everyone sleeps in our room and I can’t sleep any more. There’s no wall around the house, so it’s easy for them to get to us. We’re in real trouble. About ten days ago, the settlers attacked Amneh and Yihya Qut’s house and tried to enter it. That used to be our house. Things have become really tough and we’re in real danger.

Madama, 31 January 2020: Settlers attack home with stones while soldiers shoot tear gas and “rubber” bullets at village residents.


 

Ahmad Kayed
Ahmad Kayed

Shavei Shomron settlers do not stop even at concertina wire

The residents of the Palestinian village of Sabastiya planted approximately 600 new apricot trees, donated to them by Oxfam, on their land. As the settlement of Shavei Shomron lies about 400 meters away, the organization also donated a concertina wire fence to the residents, to protect the orchard from unwanted visitors.

The settlers began their sabotage attempts on the day the trees were planted. The settlement security officer for Shavei Shomron came there, with soldiers, and demanded that the work stop on the grounds that the area is a “nature reserve”. A background check with the Israeli DCO confirmed that the land is farmland and can be cultivated, snuffing out the officer’s hopes. For the time being.

On the last day of January 2020, a village resident called two of the landowners, Ahmad and Nizar Kayed, to report he could see settlers in their orchard. The two men hurried to the spot in time to see five settlers fleeing towards Shavei Shomron. The settlers had managed to uproot some 40 saplings and cut the fence.

The next day, Israeli DCO representatives came to the orchard to photograph the damage. Will the landowners be compensated? Will the settlers respect the property of others and remain on the other side of the fence next time? Stay tuned.


Sabastiya, 31 January 2020: Settlers uproot 40 apricot saplings and cut orchard fence
 

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Settlers riot during Palestinian procession and damage four cars
Settlers riot during Palestinian procession and damage four cars

Uninvited guests: Crashing a tree planting

On 30 January 2020, a festive procession was held in the village of al-Mazra’ah al-Qibliyah (al-Gharbiyah) to plant trees. The destination: land belonging to residents. The participants: 300 villagers, children, teachers and guests. Initiated by: the local council, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Commission against the Wall and Settlements and the village charity.

The area settlers were not so thrilled.

About 50 settlers, some of them masked, entered the procession. Matters escalated and villagers tried to calm the atmosphere and even called the Israeli DCO. After about 10 minutes, soldiers arrived and tried to stop the fighting, until the settlers gradually retreated – after damaging four Palestinian cars.

The soldiers, as usual, allowed the vandalists to escape without trying to stop them, and made do with examining the damage and promising to handle the situation. Promises are free.


Al-Mazra’ah al-Qibliyah (al-Gharbiyah), 30 January 2020: Settlers riot during Palestinian procession and damage four cars
 

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‘Einabus, 28 January 2020 – settlers torch elementary school classroom.
‘Einabus, 28 January 2020 – settlers torch elementary school classroom.

At night, when the ‘Einabus 5th-graders were sound asleep

settlers came to their school, poured flammable material in their classroom and started a fire.

The next morning, 28 January 2020, school caretaker Nafez Safdi opened the door and smelled smoke. He went from one classroom to another until he found the fifth grade classroom charred. He quickly notified the principal and went out to inspect the premises, to try and find the source of the fire. In the back yard he found the wall covered in ugly slogans, in Hebrew.

Principal Sa’id ‘Awad arrived and, after ensuring no other classrooms had been damaged, reported the incident to the authorities. The school day began, but the children didn’t want to study. They were scared and wanted to go home. Eventually, after talks with the school staff, they went into their classrooms. The fifth graders studied in the computer room that day.

“I still haven’t received a call from the Israeli DCO”, says ‘Awad. “Only the Palestinian police showed up. They confirmed that the arsonists poured flammable material that caused the fire.”

‘Einabus, 28 January 2020 – settlers torch elementary school classroom.

‘Einabus, 28 January 2020 – settlers torch elementary school classroom.
 

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Nizar al-Jawad Khalil
Nizar al-Jawad Khalil

“My father was bleeding. When the settlers saw that, they went away, as though they’d accomplished their mission”

‘Abd al-Jawad Khalil, 66, began the day in his olive grove and ended it in hospital.

It was Saturday, 25 January 2020. Khalil went with his son, Nizar, to trim some trees and gather firewood. It was midday, the time flew by and the woodpile grew. Father and son were about to load it into the trunk of their vehicle when they noticed, on a nearby hilltop, some 20 settlers heading towards them, throwing stones, shouting and swearing. They were carrying firearms and iron rods.

Nizar was terrified: his elderly father couldn’t run, and the closest village houses were at least 650 yards away. He shouted, hoping to deter the assailants and perhaps raise help from the village. The settlers continued to draw near. Nizar stood in front of his father and tried to drive the settlers away with stones. He was afraid they wouldn’t make it out alive. Just then, a stone hit ‘Abd al-Jawad in the head and he passed out, lying bleeding on the ground. “When the settlers saw that, they went away”, Nizar recounted, “as though they’d accomplished their mission.”

The local clinic where Nizar took his father called an ambulance. At Rafidya Hospital in Nablus, ‘Abd al-Jawad was bandaged and held overnight for observation. 

‘Abd al-Jawad Khalil

a-Sawiyah, 25 January 2020 – settlers attack olive grove owners with stones.

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Sharafat, 24 January 2020 – settlers torch village mosque.
Sharafat, 24 January 2020 – settlers torch village mosque.

Where mosques are burned

In the village of Sharafat, south of Jerusalem, lies the al-Badriyah mosque, which was built hundreds of years ago. On Friday morning, 24 January 2020, at 4:15 A.M., the village head, Isma’il ‘Awad, came to the mosque to read verses from the Quran before prayers, as always. The sight that met his eyes was frightening.

The iron door hung open and inside were flames. ‘Awad tried to turn the light on but the power was out. Alarmed, he quickly called some friends from the village to help put out the fire. It was so early that they were still asleep, and no one picked up. 
‘Awad peeked inside and saw the flames approaching the mosque’s library, which held ancient books. He tried to put them out before they reached the precious, flammable paper, but failed and drew back. He made another round of calls and woke three residents. While he waited for help to arrive, he used a prayer mat to stop the quickly spreading fire from reaching the imam’s podium.

Once the fire was extinguished, the extent of the damage became clear: the mosque was ruined. It was no longer fit for prayer. Now, the cleaning and restoring would begin.


Graffiti sprayed nearby revealed the arsonists’ identity: settlers who knew there would be no investigation, they would never be found, and would never be made to pay the price for destroying a place of worship. 

Sharafat, 24 January 2020 – settlers torch village mosque.
 

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Settlers attack three women with stones and try to break into their house
Settlers attack three women with stones and try to break into their house

Out of Yitzhar the evil will break

On Wednesday, 15 January 2020, at around 11:30 A.M., Amneh Qut, 30, a mother of three, sat outside her house in the southern part of Madama village together with her mother, Samira, 48, and her sister-in-law, Danya, 20. They sat in their yard enjoying the winter sun, drinking coffee and eating cake and fruit.

Suddenly, the noticed two masked settlers coming towards them from the settlement of Yitzhar. The settlers started throwing stones at the three women, who quickly got up to run into the house. Danya, who was five months pregnant, fell over and Amneh helped her up. The settlers continued throwing stones at them. Danya and Amneh were each hit in the back by a stone, and Amneh was also hit in the leg.

After the women went into the house, one of the settlers tried to prevent them from closing the door, but together they managed to close and lock it. Amneh tried to call out to the neighbors through a window, as they had left their mobile phones on the table outside, but they didn’t hear her. The settlers continued to throw stones at the house and, once they noticed Amneh standing by the window, starting aiming at the windows, too. One stone went through the grating and smashed the glass. When the settlers retreated, Amneh called her family members, and several relatives came to take Danya to be checked at hospital.  

The next day, Amneh Qut told B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i: 

“We can’t stay in the house with the way things are. I suggested to my husband Yichya that we temporarily move to his parents’ house until our house is safe. Ours is the very last house in the village, and the closest to the settlement. We have to build high walls around it and set up better defenses. We also need to get a car to drive the kids to and from school, so they don’t walk around alone. I’m constantly scared that the settlers will grab my kids on the way home from school and kill them.

I’m still afraid. I didn’t get a wink of sleep last night and my left leg still hurts. Whenever I shut my eyes, I see the settler shoving up against our front door and three of us pushing on the other side. I also see, in my mind’s eye, my brother’s wife lying on the floor, and remember the sense of urgency that we had to get her into the house before the settlers got there. It was an unbelievable situation. I still can’t believe it happened to me. It’s beyond comprehension.” 

Madama, 15 January 2020: Settlers attack three women with stones and try to break into their house

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Hamed Jazi
Hamed Jazi

First and last harvest

Hamed Jazi, 53, is a building contractor and father of six from the village of a-Sawiyah in Nablus District. On 8 January 2020, he was in his office when a friend called to say his olive trees had been vandalized. Jazi got to the grove in ten minutes and stood there, letting the sight sink in: 80 trees he had cultivated for seven years, all broken. The metal barrels he had placed around every tree to protect against wind and animals had been uprooted and thrown aside, next to the defiled trunks. It had been barely three months since he first harvested the young trees, gathering four sacks of olives.

Who knew it would be their last harvest.

The settlement of Rehelim, established in 1991 on land belonging to a-Sawiyah and other villages, lies several hundred meters from the plot. Jazi and his neighbors suffer regular uprooting and vandalizing of their trees. The memory of the last time his entire grove was vandalized, in 2013, still brings him pain.

The village council tried to persuade Jazi to file a complaint with the Israeli DCO, but he refused. What was the point? A complaint he had once filed about another incident of damage to his trees had not resulted in any investigation, and certainly not in catching the culprits. This time, he refused. He had no wish to waste any more time – or hope – on another futile complaint.


a-Sawiyah, 8 January 2020 – settlers vandalize 80 young olive trees.

1
Bassem Shtiyeh
Bassem Shtiyeh

700 sheep, 2 settlers, 500 trees

Bassem Shtiyeh, 56, a farmer and retired teacher with seven children, lives in the village of Salem, not far from Nablus. On the first day of 2020, he went with his nine-year-old nephew to the family’s olive grove. First, he noticed the sheep – hundreds of sheep wandering among his trees. Then he saw the men. Two settlers, one red-headed, the other fair, with a pack on his back and a stick in his hand. When Shtiyeh made eye contact with his unwanted guests, the threats began: “You want us to call the army?”, said one, adding: “Are you trying to cause trouble?? Get out!”.

Shtiyeh watched as the sheep tore off leaves, trampled the earth and damaged the trees, and saw all his hard work go down the drain. He called the Palestinian DCO for help. They promised to notify the Israeli DCO and hung up. The settlers approached. The fair-haired one tried to grab the almond branch Shtiyeh was carrying in case he came across a wild boar and twisted his arm. Shtiyeh freed himself from the settler’s grasp and drew back, afraid and in pain. The settlers got on their quad bike, drove around the grove a few times and took off – with the sheep on their heels.

A DCO jeep arrived, fashionably late, along with an army jeep. The soldiers listened to Shtiyeh recount the invasion of his grove and the assault against him, and headed towards the quad bike, which was not far off. Shtiyeh was taken to hospital, where he was diagnosed with a sprained tendon and his arm was bandaged. He also filed a complaint with the police. He is now awaiting justice – and a life of safety, without a constant threat of danger.


Salem, 1 January 2020 – Settlers herd sheep in olive grove and attack farmer.

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