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From the field

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.

April 2021

The entrance to a-Tamimi's land, where the fence was uprooted.
The entrance to a-Tamimi's land, where the fence was uprooted.

Deir Nizam, Ramallah District: Settlers pry gate off Palestinian farmland; soldiers prevent owner from rebuilding it and drive him away

On 19 March 2021, settlers uprooted some 2,000 almond seedlings and damaged parts of an agricultural fence on land belonging to several families from Deir Nizam. The land stretches about 500 meters north of the village, which lies in Ramallah District. The seedlings were planted as part of a program supported by the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture and funded by Oxfam.

About two days later, the landowners replanted the seedlings and erected a gate at the entrance to the path that leads to their land, in order to protect the orchard from settler attacks.

On the morning of 23 April 2021, Muhammad a-Tamimi (47) and his son Ramez (16) came to work the plot. At around 1:00 P.M., about five soldiers arrived and ordered the two to leave the area. At the same time, a vehicle stopped by the road nearby and settlers inside began swearing at the farmers. The soldiers went over to the settlers, who drove off.

Muhammad and Ramez a-Tamimi went home. About 15 minutes later, relatives informed them that settlers had uprooted the gate. Muhammad a-Tamimi drove there immediately and found dozens of Israeli security forces spread out on his land. They forced him to leave, threatening and shoving him, on the pretext that it was a closed military zone.

The next day, a-Tamimi returned to his land. Again, soldiers drove him away and prevented him from repairing the gate. A-Tamimi finally managed to repair it on 27 April 2021.

The settlement of Halamish was established about 400 meters southeast of the plot, and the Zvi Bar Yosef farm outpost about 2.5 kilometers to the east. In early April 2021, settlers and soldiers assaulted Deir Nizam residents several times in another plot owned by members of the extended Tamimi family, about a kilometer northeast of Muhammad a-Tamimi’s plot.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad on 23 April 2021, Muhammad a-Tamimi (47), a resident of Deir Nizam, recounted how the settlers and soldiers colluded to prevent him from accessing his land:

On Friday, 23 April 2021, I came to work the land with my son Ramez. At 1:00 P.M., a military jeep with four or five soldiers arrived. The officers spoke to me rudely and asked me what I was doing there. When I replied that I was working my land, he told me that I didn’t have to work today and should go home. I argued with him. Meanwhile, a car with three settlers showed up and stopped by the roadside. The settlers started cursing me, “You son of a bitch,” “You motherfucker,” and so on. The soldiers ignored it. When I also started cursing the settlers, the soldiers ordered me to shut up. They consulted with each other and only then told the settlers to leave, and they drove away. The soldiers stayed, and I had to leave with my son.

Fifteen minutes after we got home, my nephew came and told me that settlers had pried off the gate, dragged it and thrown it on the ground. I drove over there right away, since it’s only two kilometers away. When we arrived, there were dozens of soldiers, Border Police and Special Patrol Unit officers there, along with dozens of villagers who had come after hearing about the incident, and three settlers’ vehicles.

I immediately turned to the officer I’d spoken to earlier and said to him, “You were here half an hour ago and the gate was still standing, right?” He said, “Yes, you’re right. But we’re waiting for DCO officers to come and solve the problem.” Then he ordered me to move away, but I refused and told him that the settlers should fix the gate first. The officer told me that we’d wait for the DCO and they’d decide who’d fix the gate.

About 10 minutes later, an Israeli DCO officer arrived and ordered me to go home and take the gate with me. He said I should come back the next day to put up the gate instead of getting into a confrontation with the settlers. When I refused, he showed me an order on his phone declaring the land a “closed military zone.”

We insisted and refused to leave until the Border Police officers threatened to pepper-spray us and throw stun grenades at us if we didn’t. We went home and came back the next day to set up the gate, but again they didn’t allow us. Only today, 27 April 2021, I met the soldiers again and the officer told me that the ban had been lifted that day and I could set up the gate.

The settlers constantly harass us and the military covers for them and sometimes even coordinates and cooperates with them. We don’t know who else to turn to. Weve gone through all the official channels, but nothing helps.


Israeli settlers and soldiers repeatedly attack a-Tamimi family on their farmland, April 2021

In March 2021, B’Tselem documented four cases in which settlers and soldiers repeatedly tried to drive members of the a-Tamimi family and other farmers from the village of Deir Nizam out of their land and damaged their property.

One of the plots owned by the a-Tamimi family lies near the entrance to the village of a-Nabi Saleh and the roading leading to the settlement of Halamish, which was established about 200 meters away. The Zvi Bar Yosef farm outpost was established on the outskirts of the settlement, about 1.5 kilometers from the plot. Since the establishment of the outpost, Palestinian farmers have been suffering from repeated attacks on them and on their property.

Detailed below are three incidents that took place on three consecutive days in early April 2021. In every case, settlers and soldiers assaulted members of the a-Tamimi family working the plot and tried to drive them out.

3 April 2021

On the morning of 3 April 2021, members of the a-Tamimi family and other residents came to put up a fence around the plot, after receiving funding from the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture. The goal was to protect the crops from the cattle herds that settlers lead onto the land. At around midday, soldiers arrived at the scene and ordered them to stop working. When the farmers demanded the soldiers show an official order prohibiting them from working their land, the soldiers contacted the Israeli DCO to settle the matter. After two hours, the soldiers informed the farmers they could continue working as long as they did not approach the road leading to Halamish, and left the area.

At around 5:00 P.M., about 10 settlers came to the plot from the direction of the Zvi Bar Yosef outpost. The settlers, some of whom were armed, began shouting at the farmers and demanding they leave the area. The farmers refused, and then the settlers moved away and summoned soldiers. Upon arrival, the soldiers demanded the farmers stop working, cursed at them, hurled stun grenades, and fired tear gas canisters and rubber-coated metal bullets at them. Even after the farmers left the plot, the soldiers continued hurling stun grenades and firing tear gas canisters. They pepper-sprayed two of the farmers in the face, one of whom was already in his car.

4 April 2021

The next morning, about 15 Deir Nizam residents returned to the plot. While they were working, they saw the settlers who had harassed them the day before standing and watching them from a road overlooking the plot. A short while later, soldiers whom the settlers had summoned, according to witnesses, showed up again and ordered them to stop working until a representative of the Israeli DCO came and instructed them where they were allowed to work. The soldiers then left the area. The farmers waited until evening, but no DCO representative arrived and they eventually went home.

5 April 2021

The following morning, about 10 farmers returned to the plot and continued putting up the fence around it. At around 10:00, soldiers were again called to the scene by settlers according to witnesses. They again ordered the farmers to stop their work. After an argument, it was agreed that the farmers would again wait until Israeli DCO officials decided on the matter. At around midday, a military officer arrived and demanded to see the land ownership documents. The farmers presented him with the documents, but he ordered them to wait until the DCO reached a decision in order to avoid confrontation with the settlers. The officer then left, promising to leave a military jeep there to keep the peace until a decision was made. The farmers consented, but about half an hour later, the military jeep also left the area.

About 10 minutes after the jeep left, some five settlers came from the direction of the road near Halamish, invaded the plot and began uprooting the fence posts the farmers had put up two days earlier. The farmers immediately reported their actions to an Israeli DCO representative, who promised to send soldiers to the area and asked them to wait a few minutes. After waiting several minutes while the settlers continued destroying the fence, with no soldiers in sight, six farmers went over to the settlers, who had meanwhile been joined by about seven more settlers, some of them armed. The settlers starting hitting the farmers and throwing stones at them. The farmers tried to fend them off by throwing stones, until a settler they recognized threatened to shoot and hit two of them with his rifle, one in the shoulder and the other in the head. Two other farmers sustained head injuries from stones thrown by settlers.

At that point, several soldiers arrived and hurled stun grenades at the residents, who were forced to flee. Four of the injured farmers received first aid at the medical center in the neighboring village of Beit Rima.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad on 11 April 2021, Nader Ayoub (45), a US citizen born in the West Bank who had come to visit the a-Tamimi family, recounted how he and his relatives were attacked by settlers on 5 April 2021:

On Monday, 5 April 2021, at around 1:00 P.M., I brought drinks and biscuits to relatives of mine who were working land near the entrance to the village of a-Nabi Saleh. When I got there, they were in the middle of a confrontation with settlers. They were fighting with fists and stones. One of the settlers was armed. He was waving his rifle and threatening to shoot.

The minute I arrived, I saw my uncle on the ground with three settlers lying on top of him, beating him with fists and stones. I tried to help him, and then the settlers attacked me. I tried to defend myself, but one of them attacked me from behind and hit me in the back of my head with a rifle butt. It hurt very much and I felt dizzy. I lost balance and fell over. My uncles came over and got the settlers off me. After a few seconds, I managed to get up enough strength to stand up, but I was still wobbly. My uncle Munir was also injured and was bleeding from the back of the head. We both moved away a bit from the settlers.

I live in the US and was visiting my family in Deir Nizam. It took me one day to witness the settlers’ violence. I was shocked by the military’s cooperation with the criminals, backing them with no justification. I was advised to file a complaint, but I don’t believe it will lead to anything. There’s a Palestinian proverb that says: Who can you complain to when the judge himself is your opponent?

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad on 11 April 2021, Munir a-Tamimi (50), a married father of five from Deir Nizam, recalled how the soldiers joined in the settlers’ attack on 5 April 2021:

Half an hour later, a military jeep arrived. At first it was one patrol (car), and then four or five other patrols drove up. The soldiers help the settlers drive us out. In the beginning they threw stun grenades straight at us, threatened us and pushed us. They managed to get us to leave and tried unsuccessfully to confiscate Amjad’s camera. We heard the settlers egging them on and lying to them that we’d tried to snatch a weapon. We had to keep our heads down and back away.

We’re exposed to harassment and attacks whenever we work the farmland in this area. B’Tselem has documented some of these attacks, especially recent ones by settlers from the outposts headed by a settler who's well-known among area residents.

March 2021


Deir Nizam, Ramallah District: Settlers repeatedly drive farmers out of their land with help of soldiers and Israeli authorities

On 9 March 2021, five members of the a-Tamimi family from the village of Deir Nizam went to one of their plots, which lies near the neighboring village of a-Nabi Saleh. A settler named Zvi, who established the Zvi Bar Yosef farm outpost nearby  and grazes his cattle on land belonging to local farmers, noticed them when they arrived. He summoned soldiers, who drove the farmers out of their land and confiscated their tractor, on the pretext that they were on “state land.”

On the morning of 17 March 2021, several family members went to another plot they own, located about 600 meters west of the first plot and about 200 meters from the settlement of Halamish. A few months ago, the family planted 2,400 almond seedlings in this plot and put up a fence around them, as part of a program supported by the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture and the Palestinian Center for Development. When they got there, they found that settlers had uprooted a large part of the fence. While they were repairing it, several settlers appeared and led their cattle onto the family’s plot to graze. An argument broke out over ownership of the land. The settlers – including Zvi from the outpost mentioned above, who was armed –  summoned soldiers and an official from the Israeli Antiquities Authority, who ordered the family to stop working and leave their land, on the grounds that it was a closed military zone.

On the afternoon of 19 March 2021, the family again came to their plot and found Settlers grazing cattle on its outskirts. One settler threatened to shoot the family if they did not leave. A few minutes later, more settlers arrived, including Zvi. They were followed by several soldiers, who dispersed both the settlers and the family.

The following morning, 20 March 2021, at around 7:00 A.M., the a-Tamimi family returned to their land (200 meters from which the settlement of Halamish was established) to continue working, and discovered that settlers had uprooted most of the seedlings they had planted. The family reported the incident to the Palestinian DCO and called village residents, who helped them replant the seedlings.

Later that afternoon, several members of the a-Tamimi family returned to the first plot, which lies near the entrance to the village of a-Nabi Saleh. About eight soldiers and officers appeared and told them to leave. When the family refused, the soldiers demanded to see the land deeds. Yet presenting the documents did not suffice. About 20 other village residents gathered at the scene. At that point, an officer ordered the soldiers to hurl stun grenades and shoot tear gas canisters at them. The residents fled some 50 meters away, where they stopped and watched the unfolding scene. They saw a soldier uproot two olive seedlings that had been planted in the plot, but were unable to do anything. At around 6:00 P.M., the residents went home.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, Munjed Tamimi described the invasions and harassment, the family’s violent expulsion from their land, and their helplessness in the face of the settlers’ takeover intentions:

The acts of aggression and harassment by settlers from the outposts against farmers from our village don’t stop, but increase with every day that goes by. We’re particularly troubled by the “Zvi’s Farm” outpost, where the settler has a herd of about 50 cows. He’s constantly grazing them on the land of Palestinian farmers near Halamish, such as in Um Lasafa, a-Nabi Saleh and Deir Nizam. He and his herd vandalize our land and property as if it were their private territory. The settlement security guards, the military and the Israeli police always protect him and drive us out. Sometimes he’s also helped by the Israel Parks and Nature Authority or Israel Antiquities Authority staff, who also drive us out.

In one such incident, on 20 March 2021, we showed them the land deeds after they demanded them. They had nothing to say. The officer talked on the phone with someone, probably some official, and I heard him say that we have the deeds and that there’s no cause to uproot the seedlings. The person he spoke to replied that they’re small seedlings now, but when they grow they’ll block the view in front of Halamish. I heard him order the officer to drive us out even if he had to use force to do so.

At the end of the conversation, he ordered the soldiers to throw stun grenades at us from short range. At first, there were only about seven of us there, but then backup arrived from our village and from a-Nabi Saleh, and we were already 30 to 40 people. We were careful not to get dragged into a confrontation with them, because that’s what they want. When they saw that we weren’t moving, they also fired tear gas canisters at us.

To get away from the gas, we went about 50 to 70 meters away and waited there for the soldiers to leave. I saw one of them uproot two olive seedlings. We filmed him. We were furious and yelled at them that it’s not manly to take revenge on the trees. Meanwhile, it was getting dark and it wasn’t possible to work the land anyway, so we went home, hoping to come back to the land the next day to complete the work.

It seems it will be a long struggle, but we’re ready for it. The land is like our soul, and we won’t give in to them.

The settlement of Halamish was established about 200 meters away from the village.


This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of B'Tselem and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.