In the summer of 2019, settlers established a new outpost on the land of Kafr Malik. The settlement of Kochav Hashahar was built near the village. In November 2020, the outpost was relocated north to agricultural lands belonging to residents of Kafr Malik and al-Mughayir, where residents of Ras a-Tin, a Bedouin community located two kilometers away, graze their flocks. Local residents have repeatedly demonstrated against the outpost. In one such demonstration, on 18 December 2020, a settler fired live rounds at the protesters and other settlers threatened them with two large dogs. Israeli security forces who were present did nothing. In another demonstration, security forces fatally shot ‘Ali Abu 'Alia, a 15-year-old al-Mughayir resident, while he watched the protest.
Since the establishment of the outpost in 2019, settlers have been attacking local farmers and preventing them from working their land. This was the case on Thursday, 7 January 2021. At around 8:00 A.M., about 15 farmers from Kafr Malik and nearby villages came with four tractors to their land, which lies about two kilometers south of the new outpost. On their way, they saw settlers in several vehicles and a military jeep pulled over by the side of the road near the land.
About five minutes after the farmers started working their land, four settlers armed with clubs arrived along with four soldiers. The settlers blocked the tractors’ way. A few minutes later, about 10 more settlers arrived, some armed with clubs, and started throwing stones at the farmers. Several farmers threw stones back at the settlers to drive them away, and a few minutes later, an argument developed between some farmers and the settlers. When a settler pushed a farmer, the argument escalated, and the settlers started attacking the farmers with clubs and stones. Some of the farmers responded by throwing stones back at the settlers.
At some point, several settlers tried to attack Diaa’ Rustum, a farmer who was driving a tractor. As he was trying to flee, a settler fired a handgun at him, hitting the tractor. This was immediately followed by several settlers attacking a car driven by another farmer who was also trying to escape, smashing its windshield and a side window.
Until that moment, the soldiers stood aside and watched the settlers attacking the farmers, ignoring the latter's requests for intervention. The soldiers only intervened after the shooting, but only to drive the farmers out. They fired tear gas canisters at them, forcing them to move back.
At that point, dozens more settlers, about 10 military and Border Police jeeps, and police officers arrived. The settlers claimed that the tractor driver had tried to run one of them over, and the officers arrested him. The driver was released only 10 days later, after posting a 3,000 NIS (~915 USD) bail.
In an extraordinarily rare step, a representative of the Israeli DCO came to the scene and suggested the farmers go home and return on 11 January 2021, promising they would have a security escort then. On said date, at around 8:30 A.M., about ten farmers from Kafr Malik went to their land. As promised, about 20 Border Police officers and a DCO representative guarded them throughout the day. About ten settlers arrived at the land, harassing the farmers, swearing at them, and even trying to block the tractors’ way, but the police kept them at bay time and again. By the end of the working day, the farmers had managed to plow a small part of their land, which they had been afraid to access in the last two years, since the establishment of the outpost in the area.
The farmers made several attempts to file a complaint against the settlers who had attacked them at the Binyamin police station - on the day of the attack, 7 January 2021, and in the days that followed - but the officers refused to register their complaint. Only on their fourth attempt were they able to file a complaint, yet they received no confirmation of its submission.
Letting violent settlers freely attack Palestinians as security forces watch without intervening, as occurred in this instance and dozens of others, is a matter of policy. By privatizing violence in this way, Israel is able to formally disavow the actions themselves, when in fact, they further its own goals – primarily taking over more and more Palestinian land.
In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad on 12 January 2021, Khaled B’uirat (48), a farmer and father of four, described what happened that day:
About five minutes after we started working, four settlers arrived and approached us. Some were filming us while others were provoking us, yelling at us, trying to block the tractors’ way, and preventing the plowing. Within five minutes, there were already more than 20 settlers there. Despite this, the soldiers in the jeep, that had meanwhile come closer to us, did nothing but watch. When more settlers arrived, and they felt they were in a position of power over us, they started attacking us with stones. I asked the officer in the jeep if they were going to do something about it, but he ignored me.
At that point, one settler provoked a farmer, and a confrontation broke out with pushing and mutual stone-throwing. I saw one of the tractor drivers, Diaa’, trying to get away on a tractor as several settlers attacked him with stones and clubs. He was careful not to hit them. One settler in his late thirties, who was blond and had long side curls, fired three shots from a handgun that hit the tractor, and only miraculously didn’t hit Diaa’ himself. Afterwards, the settler who fired claimed that Diaa’ tried to run him over, but I saw with my very own eyes how they attacked him. He was just trying to get away from them and wasn’t trying to attack anybody.
When I managed to reach my car, another group of settlers attacked me. There were more than five of them. I tried to dodge the beating, got into my car, and started driving. The settlers threw a stone that smashed the driver’s side window and hit me in the forehead on the left side. Despite being wounded, I managed to turn around and started driving as the settlers continued attacking the car with clubs and stones. They also broke the rear window. I kept driving until I got away and thanked God I’d managed to get out of there alive.
This whole mess lasted about five minutes. The soldiers did nothing until the farmers started defending themselves while trying to escape. Then the soldiers fired tear gas canisters at us, even though we were just trying to get away from there. They fired three or four tear gas canisters, and we could barely see anything because of the gas and the stinging in our eyes.
In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad on 7 January 2021, the tractor driver, Diaa’ Rustum (33), a father of three, described the sequence of events:
When the settlers started attacking us with clubs and stones, we couldn’t push them back because they attacked us with military backing. Several of us were driving tractors at the time, and others were too old to fight back. There were some whose cars were parked close by, and they were afraid the settlers would damage them. We had to draw back to a higher place.
I was driving my tractor at the time, and just as I tried turning around, one settler, who was blocking my way, attacked me. He had light skin, blond hair, and side curls, and he was wearing a Kippah. I think he was in his twenties. At first, he tried to grab the front of the tractor. I turned the tractor around as best I could to get away from him, and then he pulled out a gun and fired straight at the tractor, hitting its right side and the radiator. When he fired at me, I thought he would kill me because we were only a meter or two apart. I stayed alive only by the grace of God. I was very confused and didn’t know exactly how many bullets he’d fired because the gun shots were mixed with the blows of the stones the other settlers threw. Later on, I saw three bullet holes in the tractors’ chassis.
In those moments, the soldiers intervened in favor of the settlers. They started firing tear gas canisters at us while we ran away. We couldn’t stand the smell of gas and felt suffocated. We managed to get away to a safe place and started checking if everyone was alright. I wasn’t hurt myself, but the tractor’s radiator was leaking water, so I drove north to ‘Ein Samiah to fill it up. While I was there, a military patrol drove up to me, confiscated my ID card, and ordered me to drive after them without explaining why.
When we arrived at a place near the Alon Road, we encountered an Israel Police patrol car. The soldiers handed them my ID card, and then the officers told me, “You’re under arrest. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say may be used against you.” I asked why I was being arrested, and it turned out that the settler who’d fired at the tractor had filed a complaint against me, claiming that I’d tried to run him over. I tried to explain what happened, but they ordered me to be quiet until I appeared before a police investigator. Then they tied my hands in front with metal zip ties and took me to the backseat of the patrol car, where they sat me between two officers. I asked about the tractor and what they were going to do with it, and they said they’d confiscate it for the investigation. They still haven’t given it back to me.
They took me to the Binyamin police station. When we got there at around 10:00 A.M., they put me in a small, dark 1.5-square-meter cell, where I could only stand or sit. It was totally bare. About two hours later, they led me to the interrogation room and questioned me about the incident. The interrogator accused me of trying to run over the settler. I explained to him what happened, that the settler was the one who tried to block my way and that I tried to avoid contact with him. I told him he fired at me and almost killed me. The interrogator watched the videos the settlers had filmed and another farmer had broadcast on Facebook. None of the videos showed anything that proved the settlers’ allegations. The interrogator questioned me for more than two hours.
Then they transferred me to an interrogation room with two or three interrogators. I think they were all officers. The one leading the interrogation showed me a video, frame by frame, and asked me questions. It took hours. I was starving. I hadn’t eaten anything since the morning and only drank a bit of water between interrogations. They only let me go to the bathroom once.
At around 10:00 P.M., they took me back to the cell while I was still handcuffed. They wore me down with all those questions. I felt exhausted, and there was no place to sleep. The cell was too small and had no blankets. As I sat on the cell floor, one of the interrogators came from time to time and asked me questions through a small window until 2:00 A.M. I was the victim here, and the settler was the perpetrator. He should have been punished.
At 2:00 A.M., they transferred me, with my hands still tied, to Ofer Prison, where they put me in a holding cell in Wing 14. I stayed there until Sunday morning. Then there was a court hearing. I talked with the lawyer who represented me for several minutes and told him what happened to me. During the hearing, my lawyer demanded that I be interrogated again because there were problems with the first interrogation. The judge agreed and adjourned the hearing.
On Tuesday morning, they took me back for interrogation at the Binyamin police station. I explained to the interrogator again the sequence of events according to the video clips, frame by frame, and made it clear that I was innocent. The interrogator told me, “Why didn’t you say these things in the first place?” I had given the same version the whole time, but apparently, they didn’t want to look bad because they distorted the truth, especially after my lawyer asked the judge to check the videos. The interrogation lasted about five hours, and then they took me back to the holding cell at Ofer military prison.
The next morning, 13 January 2021, another hearing took place. The police asked to remand me for another week. The judge postponed the hearing for a week and asked the police to bring the settler to testify. The next day, my lawyer appealed the postponement and asked to advance the hearing date. It was decided to hold the hearing on Sunday.
In the hearing that took place on Sunday, 17 January 2021, my lawyer again demanded I be released. The judge accepted his request this time and ordered my release on 3,000 shekels bail. I don’t understand why I had to post bail when I didn’t do anything, but I posted it. The judge decided on my release at 1:00 P.M., but they only released me at 9:30 P.M. They still have my tractor, and my lawyer is taking care of its return.
In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, Muntasser Hamayel (46), a married father of six and coordinator of the Kafr Malik agricultural committee, described his attempts to file a complaint with the police:
On the day of the incident, at around 4:00 P.M., I went to the Binyamin police station with two other farmers who were present at the time of the attack. We wanted to file a complaint. After we were kept waiting for more than an hour, we were told the interrogator was overworked, that he was alone today, and that he wouldn’t be able to receive us. We went home and came back the next day at 9:00 A.M., but they wouldn’t receive us again, with the same excuses.
On Tuesday, 12 January 2021, at 9:00 P.M., we came to the police for the third time after the private lawyer handling Diaa’s arrest case called ahead, and the same thing happened again. They told us the officer was very busy and sent us to file a complaint online.
After I got home, the lawyer called and asked us to return to the police station. I went back with a friend from the village and this time, an interrogator received me, and I explained what happened. While I gave my description, the interrogator watched the videos posted online. I gave him a statement for about an hour and a half and then went home. I didn’t receive any confirmation of filing the complaint.