Huwarah Junction, Nablus District: Settlers stop Palestinian car and violently assault passengers, then move on to nearest intersection and stone other cars
On Monday afternoon, 23 November 2020, Yusef Mar’i (25) from Tell was driving towards the Huwarah intersection on his way to Ramallah. With him were his friend Mustafa Ramadan (44) in the passenger seat and another friend in the backseat. When the car was about 500 meters from the intersection, settlers got out of three vehicles parked by the roadside, started stoning the car and tried to assault the passengers. They smashed the windshield, a headlight and the window on the driver’s side. One of the stones hit Mar’i in the shoulder.
Mar’i managed to drive on for about 50 meters and then stopped, and Ramadan replaced him at the wheel. They continued towards the Huwarah intersection, where they saw police officers dealing with a car accident. Mar’i told the officers what had happened, and they asked paramedics there to treat Mar’I’s shoulder. Then a Red Crescent ambulance took him to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus. The friend who was sitting in the backseat went with him. The police officers suggested that Mustafa Ramadan, who stayed in the car, file a complaint at the Ariel police station, but he saw no point in doing so.
Meanwhile, the assailants also arrived at the scene of the accident and started throwing stones at Palestinian cars waiting in the traffic jam. Soldiers arrived and held them back.
Ramadan went to Rafidia Hospital and joined his friends. After they were checked and given first aid, the three went home. Repairing the damaged car cost 1,200 shekels (~375 USD).
In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, Yusef Mar’i described the attack:
I was driving to Ramallah with two friends. When we neared the Huwarah intersection, I saw three or four cars with Israeli license plates parked on the left side of the road. When we were about 15 or 20 meters from them, a kid who looked 15 at most suddenly emerged between them with a stone in each hand. He threw the stones at our car and came round in front of it.
I was driving slowly, no more than 50 kilometers an hour, but had to stop so I wouldn’t run him over. Then, more than 15 settlers got out of the other cars and started throwing stones at us. One stone hit the windshield and cracked it, and another shattered my window and hit me in the shoulder.
I tried to reverse the car, but another settler’s car stopped behind me and four or five settlers got out. I tried to get out to defend myself, but one of the settlers slammed the door shut, grabbed me by the neck through the window and started shoving me. Other settlers tried to open the back door.
I felt dizzy. I could barely take it. They were acting like wild animals. I felt we’d fallen into a trap. They were screaming and swearing and ordered us, in Hebrew and Arabic, to get out of the car.
I barely managed to restart the car. I drove quickly and the settlers drew back a little. After driving for several hundred meters, I stopped again because I couldn’t drive anymore. I asked Mustafa to take the wheel. Meanwhile, the settlers started running towards us.
Mustafa Ramadan, a father of two from Tell, described what happened after he started driving:
I drove on for about 200 meters and when we neared the Yitzhar/Huwarah square, we saw two Israeli cars that had been in an accident. There were a police car and an ambulance there.
I drove up to them and told an officer that settlers had attacked us and that one of us was injured. He motioned us to stop and called one of the paramedics over. The paramedic tried to calm Yusef down. He was exhausted and had cramps in the left side of his body, his arm and his leg. I was worried about him. Then a Red Crescent ambulance came and took him to hospital.
Meanwhile, the settlers arrived and started throwing stones at Palestinian cars that had stopped because of the accident. They did it in front of police officers and soldiers, and hit several cars.
I stayed in the car until the settlers moved away. The officers asked my friend and me for our details and took down our account of what happened. They asked the three of us to go to the Ariel police station to file a complaint, but we didn’t because we saw no point.
I went to hospital to check on my friends, and later we all went home. A few days later, I took the car to be repaired. It cost us 1,200 shekels: the windshield, the window on the driver’s side, a headlight and paint and shield repairs where the stones left marks.
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.