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While millions of people in Israel and the West Bank are under lockdown, state-backed settler violence continues unabated. Settlers are attacking Palestinian shepherds in pastureland and entering villages, attacking residents and destroying their property. Despite the coronavirus crisis, the escalated violence has continued in recent weeks.

June 2021

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Olive trees damaged in Turmusaya, 29 June 2021. Photo courtesy of grove owner
Olive trees damaged in Turmusaya, 29 June 2021. Photo courtesy of grove owner

Turmusaya, Ramallah District: Setters uproot approx. 75 trees in villager’s grove

In the morning hours of 29 June 2021, a resident of Turmusaya in Ramallah District discovered that settlers had uprooted and damaged some 75 trees in his plot on the eastern side of the village. This was the fourth settler attack in a week on residents of the Turmusaya area or on their property.

The settlement outpost of Adei Ad was established about two kilometers northeast of the grove.

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Turmusaya area, Ramallah District: Settlers escorted by soldiers attack Bedouin community
Turmusaya area, Ramallah District: Settlers escorted by soldiers attack Bedouin community

Turmusaya area, Ramallah District: Settlers escorted by soldiers attack Bedouin community

On 26 June 2021, at around 4:00 P.M., settlers came with a military escort to a farm owned by a Bedouin family that lies on a plain east of the village of Turmusaya, and attacked it with stones. Family members, along with area residents who came to their aid, tried to fend the settlers off by throwing stones. The soldiers escorting the settlers fired live bullets, rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas canisters at the Palestinians and hurled stun grenades. Several Palestinians were hit by rubber-coated metal bullets and treated at a clinic in the area. Another was lightly injured in the abdomen by a stone.

In the attack, settlers burned down a parked agricultural vehicle, as well as some two tons of barley crops and about 50 sheaves of straw. Two goats choked to death from the tear gas and two others broke their legs in the panic that broke out among the flock. The soldiers removed the settlers from the scene after about an hour, but continued to clash with the residents until around 7:00 A.M. After police officers came to the scene, soldiers prevented residents from approaching them to file a complaint.  

The settlement outpost of Adei Ad was established about 1.5 kilometers from the Bedouin farm. Since its establishment, residents of the Turmusaya area have been suffering repeated attacks by settlers.

 

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad on 27 June 2021, Suliman Abu ‘Alia (32), a married father of three who lives on the farm with his extended family, described the settlers’ attack:

My family, which numbers 10 people, lives off farming and shepherding. In winter, we live in the Ras a-Tin area. In spring and summer, we live on our farm east of Turmusaya, so the flock can graze in the fields we’ve already harvested and eat the dry grass remaining there. Near the farm there are extremist settlers who attack us and other area residents and cause damage. In recent months it’s actually been quiet, with no attacks.   

On 26 June 2021, at around 4:00 P.M., we suddenly noticed settlers coming towards us. The women and children on the farm were terrified. We tried to drive the settlers away to defend our families, and tried to protect the flock, tents and fodder as best as we could. A few dozen guys from the area who heard what was happening came to help us fight them.  

The soldiers didn’t really try to make them leave or to protect us. All they cared about was defending the settlers, and they fired at us and threw stun grenades and tear gas. We had to disperse because the gas was so heavy. Only after an hour did the military drive the settlers away. Even then, they continued attacking us, even when the military did try to intervene. After the settlers moved away, the clashes between the residents and the military continued until 7:00 P.M. My brother Ahmad was lightly injured in the stomach from a stone thrown by the settlers. About other 10 people were injured by tear gas or “rubber” bullets. But as far as I know, they were only injured lightly and were treated at clinics in the area.  

The settlers torched a car we used for transporting things inside the farm, well as two tons of barley for feeding the flock (a ton costs about 17,000 shekels [~5,2450 USD]), and about 50 sheaves of straw that were also intended for the flock (every sheaf costs 50 shekels [~15 USD]). They also injured two goats whose legs got broken, and two other goats choked on the gas and died.  

In the end, at a late hour, police officers also arrived. But every time I tried to approach them to file a complaint, the soldiers kept me back at gunpoint 

February 2021

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Sa'id Kuk's razed plot of land, Turmusaya, 15 Feb. 2021. Photo by Sa'id Kuk
Sa'id Kuk's razed plot of land, Turmusaya, 15 Feb. 2021. Photo by Sa'id Kuk

Turmusaya, Ramallah District: Settlers rake and destroy farmland belonging to local resident, as part of a gradual takeover of his land

On 15 February 2021, Sa’id Kuk (61), a married father of eight from the village of Turmusaya, discovered that settlers had raked, razed and damaged about 60 dunams (1 dunam = 1,000 square meters) of land he and his family own.
Kuk filed a complaint at the Binyamin Police station on 11 March 2021.

Over the past year, as of April 2020, B’Tselem has documented 18 settler attacks against Turmusaya residents and their property.

In a testimony he gave B'Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, Kuk spoke about the settlers’ gradual takeover of his land:

On 15 February 2021, I discovered settlers had raked a large part of my land. They razed the entire plot – probably ahead of the outpost’s expansion and the takeover of our 60 dunams. I contacted the Palestinian DCO to file a complaint and applied to human rights organizations and the ICRC for help, but no one helped me. On 11 March 2021, I filed a complaint with the Israel Police. They registered my complaint but I’m not putting too much stock in it. I have filed complaints before, to no avail.

That’s the way it is – they’re taking over our land. It’s an ongoing ordeal of aggression and unending settlement expansion. The land they took over is the thing that’s dearest to us. They destroyed my dream and my sons’ dream to return to the land for construction or recreation. This situation is why my sons prefer to emigrate and work in the US, because they’ve been left no option to work the land or build on it here. The actions of the settlers limit their hopes and aspirations here.

Whenever the settlers do something more to take over the land, it feels like amputating parts of my body. They sever the memories, my history with the land. We grew up in this land. We lived off it, and spent our childhood and youth there. We have beautiful, sweet memories with our parents and relatives during the harvest. We’d spend weeks and months there, sometimes. They destroyed our way of life and wiped out our plans for the future.

In 1981, I went to work in the States with my family, but I came back to the village every summer, to spend the summer holiday here and improve the soil in my plot. Five years ago, I moved back here, even though I have seven married sons and daughters who work and live there with their families. They come to visit every once in a while, but I want to stay here now, to be close to my land, and to try and protect what’s left of it as much as I can.

All the residents of this area suffer daily. The settlers and the settlements have become a nightmare that mars every moment of our lives. We have nothing left to do but put our faith in God and pray that they leave.

The settlement outpost of Ami Hai was built about 500 meters away from the Kuk family land in 2018. It is located near the older settlement outpost of Adei Ad.

January 2021

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A shattered window in Hijaz Hijaz’s car after he was attacked by settlers. Turmusaya, 13 Jan. 2021
A shattered window in Hijaz Hijaz’s car after he was attacked by settlers. Turmusaya, 13 Jan. 2021

Turmusaya, Ramallah District: Settlers attack residents and torch cars in the presence of soldiers, who fire teargas canisters at the residents

In the early evening hours of Wednesday, 13 January 2021, a week after settlers scattered spikes on a road used exclusively by Palestinians, village residents noticed suspicious vehicles on their farmland. They hurried over to see what was going on. When they arrived, a vehicle belonging to the security coordinator of the settlement of Shilo blocked their way. He was joined by the guard of a farm built about a year ago near the settlement outpost of Adei Ad, several hundred meters away from farmland belonging to residents of Turmusaya. A few minutes later, about six settlers arrived and began throwing stones at the residents, who were standing and talking to the first two settlers. Most of the residents ran away. The settlers attacked 46-year-old farmer Hijaz Hijaz, who tried to fend them off using his hands, and another resident who had remained in the area. Hijaz managed to get to his car and began driving away, but the settlers gave chase and shattered a side window. This was the third time Hijaz had been hurt in a settler attack since April 2020.

The Palestinians backed away to a distance of about 70 meters, where they stopped and gathered with other village residents. Meanwhile, dozens of settlers escorted by dozens of soldiers and police officers arrived, as well. The soldiers started hurling tear gas canisters at the villagers, who retreated farther towards the village. Two of them had to abandon their cars after they were filled with teargas, and flee on foot. The settlers then went over to the cars and torched both, in full view of the soldiers. The residents noticed the flames and tried to return to put them out, but the soldiers blocked their way. After the cars burnt down completely, the forces confiscated them.

Hijaz Hijaz, 46, a father of five from the village of Turmusaya, recounted the settlers’ assault on him and the soldiers’ cooperation with them in a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad on 8 February 2021:

Recently, within less than nine months, I’ve been hurt three times by settler violence. On 21 April 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic started, I came to plow my land after coordinating with the DCO, and discovered that settlers had cut down 40 of my olive trees, which were 35 years old. I filed a complaint, but it didn’t do any good. This year, on 9 January 2021, my tire was punctured when I was driving on the road leading to my land after settlers had scattered dozens of spikes and nails on it.   

The third time was on Wednesday, 13 January 2021, at 6:30 P.M. We noticed headlights on our land and drove out there in two cars to check what was happening. We figured it was settlers, because they do that occasionally, and we’re used to their attacks and the damage they cause to our trees and farms there.  

I went with a friend in my car and when we approached, our way was blocked by the vehicle of the Shilo settlement’s security coordinator. We know him. He asked us where we were going and why, and we told him we were worried about the vehicles on our lands. He said we had nothing to worry about and that those were just his car’s lights and there was no one else around.

As we were talking, the security guard of the settlers’ new farm drove up to us. He’s a tall man with a long blond beard. He joined the discussion, and I told some young guys from the village who were with us that I was going back to my car. They continued talking.  

In less than two minutes, six settlers showed up. I don’t know where they came from. It was dark. They were holding clubs and stones and started attacking us right away. The Shilo security guard stood aside, and the farm guard pointed his gun at us to stop us from defending ourselves. The young guys had no choice but to retreat. I got out of the car to try and fend them off with my hands, but it was only me and another guy, Layth, who stayed there, and the settlers started attacking us. I tried to use my arms to shield my head from the stones the settlers were throwing at us. Within a few seconds, Layth and I managed to get back to my car and drive off. The settlers chased after the car and shattered the back side window.  

After I got to a safe distance, I checked to see how I was doing and I saw a few bruises, one in the right leg, one in the chest and one in the left hand.  

We pulled over 50-70 meters away from the settlers, and then more people from the village came. In the meantime, dozens more settlers came and also military and police jeeps. I suggested that we go back to the village, but some of the residents insisted on staying there. Very quickly, the soldiers started throwing stun grenades and firing teargas canisters at us, and we ran away. Two of the residents couldn’t get out in their cars because the gas was so strong, so they had to abandon them and run away on foot. When the soldiers and the settler guards were close to them, some of the settlers took advantage of the situation and torched the cars.

We saw the fire from far away and tried to go back to put it out, but the soldiers wouldn’t let us. The cars burnt down completely, and the residents dispersed because of the gas and returned home at about 7:30 P.M.  

The next day, the Palestinian DCO asked me to file a complaint at the Binyamin police station, but I refused because I don’t believe the police will attend to this matter fairly. One of the car owners filed a complaint.

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Turmusaya area, Ramallah District: Settlers scatter spikes on Palestinian-only road and drive iron rods into it, puncturing tire of passing truck the next day

On Sunday, 10 January 2021, settlers scattered spikes along a-Dhahrat Road and drove iron rods into it. The road, which runs about a kilometer east of the village of Turmusaya, is used by Palestinians only. Palestinians who passed by gathered the spikes and removed the rods, but apparently missed some in the dark.

The following morning, the tire of a Palestinian-owned truck driving along the road was punctured by one of the remaining rods.

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A shattered rear window in Jamal Dar Shalabi’s car after settlers stoned it. Turmusaya, 9 Jan. 2021. Photo by Dar Shalabi
A shattered rear window in Jamal Dar Shalabi’s car after settlers stoned it. Turmusaya, 9 Jan. 2021. Photo by Dar Shalabi

Turmusaya, Ramallah District: Settlers attack farmers on their own land and drive them away with army backing; resident’s car damaged by the violence

On the afternoon of 9 January 2021, four Palestinian farmers were in their plots of land east of the village. About five settlers arrived, escorted by two military jeeps, and started provoking the farmers, swearing at them and demanding they leave. Other settlers and residents of the village quickly gathered, so that there were dozens of people on the scene. At that point, the settlers assaulted the farmers with sticks and stones, and the soldiers started firing tear gas canisters and hurling stun grenades at them. The residents fled towards the village.

About a year ago, settlers began attacking farmers from Turmusaya much more frequently, after establishing a “farm” several hundred meters east of the village, near the settlement outpost of Adei Ad.

Jamal Dar Shalabi (41), a father of five from the village, was stoned by settlers while trying to escape the violence in his car. Soldiers who were standing several meters away did nothing to protect him from the assailants, who smashed the rear window of his car and damaged its body.

The village residents moved about 500 meters away and returned home about half an hour later, after the soldiers got the settlers to head back towards the outpost.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, Shalabi described the settler attack on his car:

Since the outpost and the farm were established we’ve been suffering repeated abuse and attacks by the settlers, who are trying to drive us out of our land in order to take it over.

On Saturday, 9 January 2021, at around 4:30 P.M., I got a phone call from the Israeli army telling me to come to the land east of the village. They know I speak Hebrew, and I often mediate when there’s trouble between people from the village and the army. I got there within five minutes and saw three settlers and a military jeep. More and more settlers started showing up, and another military jeep arrived, so there were about 10 soldiers in total. I spoke with the commanding officer and explained that the villagers were on their land and the settlers were those who had come there to provoke them. Meanwhile, the settlers threatened the village residents, swore at them and even tried to attack them. The soldiers ordered the residents to leave but they refused and insisted on staying on their land, because it’s their right. They demanded that the soldiers make the settlers leave, but the soldiers sided with the settlers and demanded that the residents leave.  

Gradually, the number of settlers grew until there were about 50 people there. More people from the village showed up, so there were already dozens of us. The settlers started attacking the residents with sticks and stones, and the residents started running away and retreating. The soldiers fired tear gas canisters and throwing stun grenades at us, so I had to run away, too.

I got in my car and started to turn it around with five or six settlers attacking me. The soldiers who were there didn’t raise a finger to stop the assault. I managed to turn the car around and get away, but not before they smashed my rear window and damaged the car’s body.

We all stopped about half a kilometer west of the spot and tried to calm the young guys down, so the incident wouldn’t escalate into a confrontation with serious repercussions. The mood was very tense. About half an hour later, the soldiers directed the settlers back towards the outpost. Then the soldiers came over to us and ordered us to go back to the village. The residents went back.
I stayed on the spot until 7:00 P.M., waiting for the police, but they didn’t show up. The officer suggested that I file a complaint at the Binyamin police station. I decided against it because I have no faith in them. They don’t really help us. I went home.

I think repairing the damage to my car will cost more than 2,000 shekels (~USD 600). Thank god, I wasn’t physically hurt.

On 10 January 2021, settlers scattered spikes on a road that runs through the farmland east of Turmusaya – a road that only Palestinians use – and drove iron rods into it. The following day, the tires of a truck and two other vehicles driving along the road were damaged.

November 2020

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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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Damaged water containers in Nidal Rab’i’s plot, Turmusaya, 9 Nov. 2020. Photo by Firas ‘Alami
Damaged water containers in Nidal Rab’i’s plot, Turmusaya, 9 Nov. 2020. Photo by Firas ‘Alami

Turmusaya, Ramallah District: Settlers destroy equipment and steal generator, work tools, water containers and faucets

On Monday, 9 November 2020, late at night, settlers invaded two privately-owned plots east of the village of Turmusaya, destroyed some farming equipment and stole other parts.  

The settlers first invaded the plot of Nidal Rabi’ (68), a father of three. They stole two large water containers and 14 faucets, and destroyed water pipes about 100 meters long. The damage is estimated at 5,000 shekels (~1,555 USD).

They then invaded the plot of Rajeh Jbarah (55), a father of ten. There, they stole a generator, a chainsaw, two vertical band saws, a circular saw and work tools – hammers, chisels and screws. They also broke ten window boxes and five light fixtures and sprayed a Star of David on the fence, as well as graffiti reading “Israel is alive and will never die.” The damage was estimated at thousands of shekels.

The landowners discovered the theft and vandalism the same night and reported it to the Israeli DCO and the Israel Police, who sent representatives the next day to collect statements and assess the damage. During the day, the police summoned the farmers to give statements at the Binyamin police station. Although they went to the station and gave their accounts, they have not heard anything about the investigation since.

October 2020

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Turmusaya, Ramallah District: Settlers mutilate 12 young olive trees

On 15 October 2020, Nabhan Jabarah (62), a married father of 12 from Turmusaya, arrived at his plot, where he had planted 18 olive trees three years ago. He discovered that settlers had broken the branches of six trees. On 3 November 2020, he discovered that they had broken the branches of six more trees. Now, only six young intact trees are left in his grove, and he fears they will soon be damaged as well. Jabarah told B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad that he had not filed a complaint with the police because he saw no point in doing so.

The settlement of Shiloh was established in 1978, east of Turmusaya, on land belonging to the villages of Turmusaya and Qaryut, about 500 meters away from Jabarah’s plot. Despite the plot’s proximity to the settlement, the military does not require Jabarah to coordinate his arrival, and he regularly goes to the plot to water and tend to the saplings.

September 2020

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Uprooted olive seedling in Turmusaya, 6 September 2020. Photo: Iyad Hadad
Uprooted olive seedling in Turmusaya, 6 September 2020. Photo: Iyad Hadad

Turmusaya, Ramallah District: Settlers uproot olive seedlings and steal parts of fence around plot

On Sunday, 6 September 2020, farmers from the village of Turmusaya discovered that settlers had uprooted more than 40 olive seedlings, which were three years old, from farmland east of the village.

In an adjacent plot, settlers had uprooted and stolen four vine seedlings and ten olive seedlings, which were three years old. They also vandalized a 40-meter-long fence and stole its gate, along with 15 iron posts. The settlement of Adei Ad was established about a kilometer from the plot.

August 2020

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The Abu Naim family’s sheep, run over by settlers, Turmusaya, 6 Aug. 2020. Photo: courtesy of the witnesses.
The Abu Naim family’s sheep, run over by settlers, Turmusaya, 6 Aug. 2020. Photo: courtesy of the witnesses.

Turmusaya, Ramallah District: Settler car runs over and kills eight sheep, injures 12

The Abu Na’im family, 13 members in total, lives in the village of al-Mughayir in Ramallah District. Every April, the family relocates with its flock to rented pastureland about two kilometers east of Turmusaya. During that time, the flock feeds on grain and straw left on the ground after the harvest season. At the start of winter, they return to the village.   

On the evening of 6 August 2020, Ayham Abu Na’im (29), a father of three, was grazing 200 of his family’s sheep about a kilometer and a half west of the outpost of Adei Ad. At around 7:00 P.M., he noticed a fire raging in the fields near the settlers’ trailer homes, about 500 meters east of his location, and quickly drove the flock back towards his family’s pastureland.

When Abu Na’im was about 150 meters from his home, he saw two cars coming from Adei Ad: a car without a license plate, followed by the outpost’s security vehicle. The cars sped towards him and ran over about 20 of the sheep, killing eight and injuring 12 to various degrees. The incident caused seven pregnant ewes to miscarry.

Abu Na’im’s brother and father, as well as a friend of his father’s, noticed the attack and started running towards him. The settlers turned around and drove back towards the outpost. Abu Na’im and his family carried the dead and injured sheep away.
 
Dozens of area residents who had heard the shouting came to help remove the sheep, but soldiers arrived and dispersed them using tear gas and stun grenades. The residents returned home about half an hour later.

Abu Na’im called the Israeli DCO and notified them of the incident, but no one has contacted him as yet.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, Abu Na’im described the car-ramming attack:

While I was out grazing the flock, I saw a fire burning near a new settler ranch with about three trailer homes. I was afraid I’d be suspected of starting the fire, so I quickly drove the flock back to our pen. When I was about 150 meters away from home, I saw two cars speeding from the direction of Adei Ad. At first, I thought they were going towards the fire, but instead they came towards me. I started getting scared and tried to get away. I climbed on my donkey and started speeding up the flock. After I’d gone about 70 to 100 meters, they reached me and I saw four masked settlers inside the first car. Three of them had their upper bodies sticking out the windows. The two in the backseat were holding clubs, and another in the passenger seat had a gun. The second car was the settlement security vehicle. The driver was “Meir”, an extremist settler who is known for his aggression in the area. The first car started running over the sheep and lambs, chasing them and ramming mercilessly into their bodies, heads and feet. They kept hitting them again and again.

The settlement guard drove behind them for 20 or 30 meters and stopped. The first car kept running over the sheep while I yelled and pleaded with them to stop. I screamed: “Shame on you, what have they done to you?? Enough! What are you doing? You have no mercy”. My calls fell on deaf ears. It seemed like they enjoyed killing the sheep. 

About two minutes later, the settlers saw my father, brother and another friend coming towards us, and then they turned around and took off towards Adei Ad.

We started examining the sheep and taking them away. Four sheep were killed on the spot and four others were dying and passed away the next day. We took them away and treated the 12 injured sheep who had bruises or fractures. Seven ewes miscarried. A few days later, we saw that the condition of the injured sheep was deteriorating, so we called a vet.

The incident made us feel even more anxious than usual, since the area has become dangerous for us. We’ve been coming here for 20 years. The settlers have taken over most of the land in our area and prevent us from grazing there. We don’t have much choice.

I managed to get the number of an Israeli DCO officer and called him about an hour later. He promised me he’d come by to help me file a complaint, but he still hasn’t shown up. This is another proof that there’s no one to turn to. All we have left is to complain to Allah about our problems.

July 2020

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The 'Awad family's fence, vandalized by settlers. Turmusaya, 20 July 2020. Photo: courtesy of the witness
The 'Awad family's fence, vandalized by settlers. Turmusaya, 20 July 2020. Photo: courtesy of the witness

Turmusaya, Ramallah District: Settlers steal 150 fence posts from farmer, two years after uprooting his olive seedlings and vandalizing same fence

Salim Dar ‘Awad (68) from Turmusaya, a father of 14, owns four dunams of land [1 dunam = 1,000 sq. meters] about five kilometers east of Turmusaya. In 2018, settlers uprooted almost 100 olive seedlings he had planted. He immediately planted 150 new ones and put up a fence, about 300 meters long and two meters high, around the plot. This April, settlers vandalized the fence, stole some of the posts and broke tree branches. Dar ‘Awad repaired the damage and rebuilt the fence.

On the morning of 20 July 2020, at around 7:00 A.M., a shepherd from the village called Dar ‘Awad and told him that once again, parts of the fence had been vandalized and posts stolen. He drove to the plot right away and discovered that settlers had stolen 150 posts from the fence (which cost about 20 NIS or 8 USD each). He was relieved to find that they had spared the olive seedlings, this time.
 
The settlement of Adei Ad was established about a kilometer from Dar ‘Awad’s plot.

Dar ‘Awad filed a complaint at the Binyamin police station, and police officers came to his plot to photograph the damage.

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Samer Kurdi, cyclist attacked by settlers near Turmusaya, 18 July 2020. Photo: courtesy of the witnesses
Samer Kurdi, cyclist attacked by settlers near Turmusaya, 18 July 2020. Photo: courtesy of the witnesses

Turmusaya, Ramallah District: Settlers ambush and stone cyclists, beat two of them, steal three bikes and vandalize them

The settlers have ruined our quiet routine and deprived us of our basic right to spend time in nature. Because of them, we're anxious and too afraid to go biking again.

From the testimony of ‘Amer Kurdi (30), a cyclist

Five friends from Beir Zeit, a village in Ramallah District, go bike riding every weekend. On Saturday morning, 18 July 2020, they set out from Beir Zeit, cycled along Route 60 and turned off by Turmusaya. They rode for about three kilometers along a dirt road that leads to the hills northeast of the village, about a kilometer from the settlement outpost of Adei Ad.

‘Amer Kurdi (30) and Dennis Subuh (30) were about 100 meters ahead of their friends when they noticed several tents on a hilltop. The tents were put up by settlers from Adei Ad, but the cyclists initially thought they belonged to Bedouins. As they passed the hill, however, they came across a white pickup truck. A man got out of it and asked them, in Hebrew, where they were coming from. After they replied that they had come from Ramallah, he got into the truck and drove off, and the pair continued riding.

When the rest of the group reached the same spot, about seven masked settlers, armed with clubs and sticks, appeared on the hilltop. With them was the settlement guard, also armed. They started throwing stones and tumbling boulders at the cyclists from about 40 meters away. After Kurdi And Subuh stopped to check on their friends, two settlers came down the hill and started throwing stones at them. They managed to escape, but the others had to abandon their bikes and run to nearby fields under a hail of stones. Two settlers and the settlement guard managed to catch Samer Kurdi (28), ‘Amer’s brother, and one of the settlers started beating him with a club while the guard threatened him at gunpoint.  

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, Samer Kurdi described the ambush and the assault:

Suddenly, about 7 to 10 settlers appeared on the hilltop while we were in the valley below, about 40 meters away. Their faces were covered with shirts, and they started throwing large stones and pushing boulders down at us. They were holding screwdrivers, sticks, clubs and stones. One of them, who had a rifle, stood watch over them. We felt in real danger and were scared.

We left our bikes and ran away on foot. A stone hit me in my left thigh, but I kept running because I was afraid to stop. As I was running, I tripped, and then two settlers who were chasing us reached me and blocked my path. One of them was the armed settler. He pointed his gun at me while the other, who was holding a black club, started hitting me in the legs. He tried to beat me in the ribs and upper body, and I shielded myself with my arms. When the beating intensified, I tried grab the club and snatch it from him, but the armed settler threatened me, so I stopped.  Then the other settler stopped beating me.

Kurdi and Subuh noticed the settlement guard they had met before the incident standing on the hilltop next to his white pickup truck. They went up to ask for help, but he refused and signaled them to step back. They stayed put and watched what was happening from above.

Meanwhile, the settlers stole three of the bikes that had been left by the road and a cell phone attached to one of them, and then headed to Adei Ad. Subuh and Kurdi came down the hill with the security guard and joined their three friends, who were standing next to the other guard. They discovered that two of the cyclists had been injured: Samer had bruises and scratches all over his body, and Luai Mesleh (28) was injured in his right leg and in other body parts from the stone-throwing.  

The settlement guards ordered the cyclists to leave, but they refused to go without their bikes. One of the guards returned to Adei Ad and came back after an hour with the three bikes, which settlers had vandalized meanwhile. At that point, a military patrol passed by. The soldiers asked the guards what had happened without addressing the victims. They photographed the bikes and Samer and Luai's injuries, and then ordered the Palestinians to leave. When they answered that they couldn't get home because their bikes had been damaged, the soldiers asked the settlement guard to give them a ride in his pickup truck. He drove the three cyclists while Kurdi and Subuh rode on their bikes behind him.

When the group finally reached Turmusaya, at around midday, they were greeted by the head of the village council and other residents. The injured men were given first aid and driven back to Beir Zeit by taxi. After the Israel Police contacted Samer, the cyclists went to the Binyamin police station and filed a complaint against their assailants.

May 2020

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Shattered windshields in Yazan Dawabsheh's car, 16 May 2020
Shattered windshields in Yazan Dawabsheh's car, 16 May 2020

Turmusaya, Ramallah District: Settlers batter car with iron pipe and axe

Three friends from the town of Abu Falah went for a stroll before the Ramadan evening meal. It was a Saturday evening, 16 May 2020. One of them brought his three kids along.

The men drove in two vehicles – Yazan Dawabsheh (23) in a car and his two friends in a jeep. They headed to the a-Sader area, east of Turmusaya, about a kilometer from where the settlement outpost of Adei Ad lies. When they reached their destination, Yazan parked his car and joined his friends in the jeep, as they were entering an unpaved path. They drove on for about 200 meters, parked and began their stroll.

Suddenly, an old black car with off-road tires appeared from the direction of Adei Ad and stopped by Dawabsheh’s car. Four masked settlers, armed with iron pipes and axes, got out and started hitting the car from all sides. Although the attack lasted less than a minute, they caused heavy damage. When the settlers heard Dawabsheh and his friends’ yelling, they got back in their car and left.

The next day, Yazan Dawabsheh described his feelings in a testimony he gave to B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad:

Within seconds, the settlers turned our outing into a terrible experience. We came back to the village shaken and in a bad mood. They destroyed nearly all the car's windows, including the windshield, broke the camera, and smashed the front mirror and a side mirror.

The repair will cost about 15,000 shekels (~4,280 USD). I don’t see the point in filing a complaint with the police, because the result is foregone. The police always take the settlers’ side, and that’s why it’s useless.

April 2020

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A vandalized fence in Turmusaya, 14 April 2020
A vandalized fence in Turmusaya, 14 April 2020

Turmusaya, Ramallah District: Settlers vandalize fences meant to protect groves from their incursions

On Saturday, 25 April 2020, Riyad Jabara (45) and Mahmoud ‘Ali (80), residents of Turmusaya, discovered that settlers had vandalized the protective fences around their plots and the gates they had installed in them. The farmland in question is located in the area of a-Dhahrat, about three kilometers east of the village.

The perpetrators destroyed gates and protective fences surrounding both plots, stretching 20 meters long in Ali’s land and 50 meters long in Jabara’s. The latter had erected the fence around an area he’d prepared for planting olive trees.

About six years ago, Jabara planted olive trees on his land. Last year, settlers vandalized some of them. In late March 2020, they destroyed the 40 trees that had survived the previous attack.

The settlement outpost of Adei-ad was founded in 1998 about 500 meters from both plots.

The farmers of Turmusaya have been suffering from constant harassment by settlers for years. In April 2020 alone, B’Tselem documented four more cases of destruction of trees, and another case of vandalizing a fence. The fences were erected by the International Red Cross in 2018, as part of an initiative to protect farmland in the area.  

Farmers are not only hard put to protect their crops from the invaders, but also face another significant obstacle: the Israeli military prohibits local landowners from visiting their land daily and only grants them access several days a year, during the harvest and plowing seasons. 

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Turmusaya, Ramallah District: Dozens of olive trees destroyed while farmers denied access

Settlers have recently increased their destruction of agricultural equipment and severe damage to fruit-yielding trees in the area of Turmusaya.

On Monday morning, 20 April 2020, farmers went to plow their land east of the village. The military forbids them to reach these plots without prior coordination. Recently, the Israeli DCO granted the farmers two rare working days – for the first time since the olive harvest season. When the Hamza family finally arrived at their plot, they were dismayed to discover that almost 100 olive trees had been cut down. Rabah Hamza reported the incident to the Palestinian DCO.

The mutilated trees were 30 years old.

Hijazi Hijazi, a 46-year-old farmer from Turmusaya, encountered a similar sight the next day. He arrived at his plot, adjacent to the Hamza’s, and discovered that 40 olive trees had been destroyed.

Hijazi had been growing the trees for 35 years.

The same day, after coordinating with the Israeli DCO, farmers from al-Mughayir also arrived at their land to plow. One of them, Jamal Na’asan (40), discovered that 40 of his olive trees had been destroyed.

They were 25 years old.

This wholesale damage to trees is one aspect of a broader phenomenon. In late 2019, settlers started placing mobile structures on private lands of Turmusaya residents in an attempt to take them over. The Israeli authorities repeatedly remove the structures but the settlers replace them – while destroying crops of Palestinians in the area in reprisal. In 2018-2019, B’Tselem documented nine incidents in the area, in which hundreds of trees were damaged and olives were stolen from Turmusaya land.

The settlement outpost of Adei-Ad was established about 500 meters from the abovementioned plots.  

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A vandalized fence in Turmusaya, 14 April 2020
A vandalized fence in Turmusaya, 14 April 2020

Turmusaya, Ramallah District: Settlers break trees, uproot fence and clarify they will return

The farmers of Turmusaya routinely suffer hostile incursions to their lands from settlers emerging from nearby settlements and outposts. 

One such farmer is Salim Dar ‘Awad (68). On Tuesday morning, 14 April 2020, Dar ‘Awad arrived at his plot to discover that settlers had vandalized 70 meters of the protective fence he had erected around it. While they were at it, they stole the fence rods and broke the branches of a few olive trees. Dar ‘Awad reported the incident to the Turmusaya municipality, which passed on the complaint to the Palestinian DCO. 

Dar ‘Awad built the fence in 2018, after settlers uprooted about 100 olive seedlings in his grove and he decided to try to protect his crops. 

On 15 April 2020, in a testimony he gave to B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, he recalled:

“Recently, settlers built another outpost near my lands. They drive out farmers and try to take over farmland in the area. Now they’re taking advantage of the fact that people are staying home for fear of the coronavirus, and are mercilessly destroying crops without thinking twice. They don’t have a shred of humanity in them. 

It’s not just about financial damage during a tough time, but about a constant sense of threat and repeated attacks.”

The settlement outpost of Adei-Ad, which lies about a kilometer from his plot, was founded in 1998. 

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Turmusaya. photo: Fathi Shabana
Turmusaya. photo: Fathi Shabana

Turmusaya, Ramallah District: Settlers intimidate landowners and damage their property

Three times in a row, Jamal Jabara from Turmusaya had to fend off settlers who invaded his land and tried to drive him out. First, they rammed his car; then they threw stones and fired in the air; and finally, they showered him with curses and threats.

The first encounter took place on Thursday afternoon, 2 April 2020. Jabara, 50, drove about five kilometers east of the village to his plot, where he grows olive trees and grains. On the way, he saw a car with Israeli license plates driving towards him from the direction of a new settlement outpost that was built about a kilometer from his land. The road was narrow, the fear real, and Jabara quickly shifted into reverse gear and started backing away. The settlers, on the other hand, sought contact. They sped towards his car and rammed it six times, shouting and demanding that he leave.

Jabara continued driving in reverse until he was able to turn around and flee the scene. He notified the village council, who reported the incident to the Israeli DCO.

Greatly alarmed, Jabara decided he shouldn’t return to his land alone and got a few village residents to go back with him. He was right: a few minutes after they reached the plot, about 20 settlers arrived in cars, including the armed chief of security of a nearby settlement. The settlers hurled stones at the residents, and the chief of security fired several shots in the air.

About 15 minutes after the assault began, some 10 soldiers arrived. The residents asked them for help, but the soldiers chose not to remove the settlers and instead fired tear-gas canisters at the residents. A few minutes later, a Border Police jeep arrived on the scene. The settlers left and the Border Police officers promised the residents to protect them from the settlers, offering futile advice: file a complaint with the Binyamin police station.

As for the third encounter? Jabara recalled in a testimony he gave the next day to B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad:

The morning after the incident, I went back to the plot with my brothers and our children. We decided to work, in order to demonstrate our presence and defend our right to the land. We were worried the settlers would try to establish facts on the ground and take over the property, and they indeed arrived. They came over to us again and again, shouting and swearing at us. We ignored them.

Even though the police promised to protect us, we only saw one military patrol vehicle in the area, and they didn’t make the settlers leave our land.

We’re very worried that the attempts to disturb us and drive us out of our land will continue and things will get worse. For the moment, I need to repair the damage they caused to my car.

Although it is only dents and scratches on the bumper, the repair will cost more than 1,000 shekels (~283 USD), because it’s a new car. In any case, the mental damage is worse than the financial loss. The attacks were traumatic and I’ve been anxious ever since

March 2020

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Musa Abu ‘Awwad with one of his grandsons. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B'Tselem
Musa Abu ‘Awwad with one of his grandsons. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B'Tselem

Red Line?

On Tuesday, 10 March 2020, two residents of Turmusaya – Musa Abu ‘Awwad and his Son-in-law, Tareq a-Rifa’i – were driving on a dirt road that leads to their village. Tareq’s two-year-old twins, Adam and Nur, were in the car with them. When they were not far from the outpost of Adei Ad, three settlers drove up behind them on motorcycles, overtook the car and blocked their way. 

The settlers dismounted and approached the car, yelling in Hebrew and Arabic: “Why are you here? What are you doing here? We’ll shoot you and your children!” They demanded to see the passengers’ ID cards and, after a verbal exchange, Abu ‘Awwad and a-Rifa’i handed them over. When they tried to get the cards back, the settlers were slow to return them and a loud altercation ensued, waking the twins, who began crying. 

At that point, the incident escalated quickly. One settler put his hands out to pull Adam out of the back seat. After pushing and shoving, Abu ‘Awwad and a-Rifa’i managed to release him from his  hands and get back into the car.

A-Rifa’i turned the key to start the car and flee, at which point one of the settlers broke the back window of the car with the butt of his rifle. 

As they drove away, the passengers saw the settlers return to the outpost of Adei Ad. 


Tareq a-Rifa’i described what he, his father-in-law and his sons went through on that difficult day in a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad:

After the assault, the kids were scared and upset. They couldn’t sleep that night. I couldn’t sleep either. I stayed up, unsettled, thinking about the incident. I had terrifying thoughts. 
 
After I filed a complaint, an officer from the Israeli DCO contacted me and asked me about the incident. It was a conference call with a representative from the Palestinian DCO, and after I described what had happened, the officer said: “This act is unacceptable and shameful. Trying to hurt children is crossing a red line and can’t be tolerated”. Then he said: “We hope there won’t be any retaliation from your side...” 

The officer promised me the incident would be investigated and asked me to file a complaint at the Israel Police station in Binyamin. I told him we weren’t troublemakers and that my children have American citizenship. I said: “These settlers are first of all harming you and your reputation, because they act like robbers and gangsters.” He said: “Yes... That’s the ‘hill-top youth’. Lawbreakers! We’re after them, and I promise you we’ll take care of it”. 
 

A shattered window in Tareq a-Rifa’i's car. Photo courtesy of the family
A shattered window in Tareq a-Rifa’i's car. Photo courtesy of the family


10 March 2020, Turmusaya, settlers detain Palestinian car, threaten passengers, attempt to abduct a toddler and break car window with rifle butt.

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