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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.

January 2021

13
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.

A shattered window in Muhammad ‘Othman’s car, Za’atrah-Tapuah junction, 13 Jan. 2021. Photo: Muhammad ‘Othman
A shattered window in Muhammad ‘Othman’s car, Za’atrah-Tapuah junction, 13 Jan. 2021. Photo: Muhammad ‘Othman

Za’atrah-Tapuah junction: Settlers stone Palestinian cars, shatter windshield

On the evening of 13 January 2021, at around 8:30 P.M., a group of settlers threw stones at passing Palestinian cars at the Za’atrah (Tapuah) junction on Route 60.

When Mahmoud ‘Othman (39), a resident of Majdal Bani Fadel in Nablus District, drove by, one of the stones hit the windshield of his car and shattered it.

 

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'Aqraba, Nablus District: Settlers plow Palestinian farmers’ land; soldiers and police drive farmers out and arrest one

On Monday, 11 January 2021, at around midday, residents of the villages of ‘Aqraba and Majdal Bani Fadel in the She’b al-Hayah area learned that settlers were working their plots of land. The settlement of Gittit was established in 1972 several hundred meters from the area, on land belonging to ‘Aqraba.

Dozens of village residents reached the area and encountered five settlers, including the security coordinator of Gittit, working the land with two tractors and a digger. A few minutes later, soldiers and police officers arrived and tried to drive the Palestinians out. After clashes broke out between the villagers and the settlers, which included mutual shoving, the officers arrested ‘Aqraba resident Ra’d Bani Fadel (37), claiming he had pushed a settler.

At around 4:00 P.M., faced with no other choice, the residents left the area. The soldiers and officers stayed and guarded the settlers, who continued working the land until evening. Bani Fadel was taken after his arrest to the Binyamin police station and from there to Ofer Prison, where he was held until his release on 22 January 2021 after posting bail.

Two days later, on 13 January, dozens of village residents gathered again on their land. At around 10:00 A.M., Muhammad Zein a-Din (70) and his son ‘Iz a-Din Zein a-Din (46), residents of Majdal Bani Fadel, also went to land they own in the area. As there is no paved access to the land, the two left their car by the roadside and continued for about 500 meters on foot.

After they had gone several meters, two settlers suddenly appeared behind them and hit the father, Muhammad, on the head and shoulder with a club. Muhammad fell down and saw one of the settlers run towards his son, Zein a-Din, and hit him in the head with the club while the other settler tried to knock him down. At that point, the father picked up a stone and threw it at the settlers in order to get them away from his son, while crying out for help. Soldiers quickly arrived but did not offer the two first aid and allowed the settlers to escape without arresting them. About 15 minutes later, an Israeli ambulance arrived and its crew gave the two men first aid. They were then taken in a village resident’s private car to a clinic in ‘Aqraba, and from there to hospital in Nablus, where they were X-rayed and had their wounds stitched. The two refused to stay in the hospital for observation for fear of the coronavirus.

To date, since the incident, all the residents have been prohibited from entering their land until they present documents proving ownership of the land, although they have been cultivating it for many years. Meanwhile, the settlers continue working the land unimpeded.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, Ra’d Bani Fadel (37), a father of three from ‘Aqraba, described the attack on the farmers on 11 January 2021:

I work as a public relations and project manager at the SATCO electric company. My brother Ayman (53) and I inherited a plot from our grandfather. It’s located on the village's eastern side, in an area called al-Hayah, and we plant crops there every year. In 1982, the settlers tried to take over our land, but the Israeli court ruled that it’s outside the boundaries of the settlement of Gittit and wouldn’t let the settlers take it.

On Monday, 11 January 2021, at around 2:30 P.M., my brother Ayman and I went to our plot after a local shepherd called and told us that settlers were plowing our land. I called the Israeli police and the Palestinian DCO and asked them to come to the plot. When we arrived, we saw two settlers working on two tractors, as well as other settlers, one of them Gittit’s security coordinator. The settlers said they were working the Land of Israel and that it belongs to them. I tried to explain that I inherited this land from my father, who inherited it from my grandfather, that we work it all year round and plant crops on it, and that settlers or soldiers have never come there. Nothing helped. They continued plowing our land and kept taunting us and saying that this is their country and the land belongs to them. They said that our use of the land all these years was temporary, until they got it back. 

The military and the police arrived and I thought they’d arrest the settlers. But as soon as the settlers spoke to the soldiers and the police officers, the officers told us to leave. We agreed on condition that the settlers leave, too, because it made no sense for us to go while they stayed and worked our land. But the settlers refused to leave. About six to eight of us stood in protest in front of the tractor, but it didn’t bother the settler, who kept driving until he almost ran us over. We moved aside at the last minute. We didn’t know what to do. We asked the police, the military and the Palestinian DCO for help, but nothing helped. Then Gittit’s security coordinator starting shouting at us and pushed me. I pushed him back, and then he hit me on the nape of the neck. It hurt a lot. I yelled at them, “Get out of my land,” and pushed some settlement official who was there. In response, he talked with the officers and demanded they arrest me, which they did. An officer came over and handcuffed me. I thought he would only detain me on the spot, but he took me to a police car that drove me to the Binyamin police station.

At the police station, I was held in a room for about five hours. An interrogator tried to frame me in every possible way for things I hadn’t done. He accused me of throwing stones and attacking an official, but I denied everything. After the interrogation, they transferred me to Ofer Prison. The next day, I was taken back to the Binyamin police station. The same interrogator questioned me again about the same things and threatened to put me in prison. I held back and didn’t react, of course. They took me back to Ofer Prison and I stayed there until 22 January 2021. During that time, several court hearings were held. In the last one, two villagers who had witnessed the incident came and testified. I was released on bail and told that I'd have to show up if a hearing was scheduled. I haven’t received any summons so far.

It was a very rough time. I was attacked on my own land and then labeled a criminal. I have a heart condition and need to take medicine regularly. Even though I mentioned that point during the medical checkup at the prison, they ignored it and I didn’t get my medicine the whole time I was in there.
 
In testimonies they gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, Muhammad and ‘Iz a-Din Zein a-Din described the attack on them two days later.
 
Muhammad Zein a-Din (70), a father of 12, recounted:

I own 30 dunams of land in the Tal al-Khashabeh area, south of ‘Aqraba and north of Majdal Bani Fadel. Every year I plow the land and sow wheat in it. This year, because the rain is late, I haven’t sown anything yet. Because the weather forecast says it will rain in the next few days, I was planning to sow the wheat like I do every year. I always plant all sorts of grains there and never have any problems.

On Wednesday, 13 January 2021, at around 9:30 A.M., I went to the area with my son ‘Iz a-Din, after we heard on the mosque loudspeakers that settlers were plowing our land. Our plot is about 500 meters away from the road. Because the way there isn’t paved, we left our cars by the roadside and advanced on foot.

I’d only gone several meters when my son, who was walking ahead of me, told me to watch out. The second I turned to look back, I was hit hard in the head and fell down. There were settlers there whom I hadn’t even noticed.

The settler hit me with a club several times on my hand and back. Then he went over to my son and hit him in the head with the club while the other settler held him. I picked up a stone and threw it at the settlers to get them off my son. I yelled and called out for help. I felt I was about to black out and didn’t know what was happening around me. Meanwhile, about 10 soldiers and several police officers arrived.

Muhammad’s son, ‘Iz a-Din Zein a-Din (46), a father of seven, recalled:

One of the settlers hit my father on the head with a club. He fell to the ground, and the settler beat him several times in the hands and back. When I saw him like that, I went mad and started yelling and calling for help, but one settler chased me and hit me in the head with the club. The other settler joined him and tried to knock me to the ground, and I tried to get away from them. At one point, I moved my head and the club hit the other settler in the head. I took a few hits in the arms and legs and fell down. I felt dizzy. My father threw a stone at the settlers to get them away from me. Meanwhile, soldiers arrived, but they didn't take any notice of the fact that my father, an elderly man who can’t harm anyone, was lying there with blood all over his face. My head was bleeding, and all my clothes, even my shoes, were stained with blood.

Several villagers arrived, and more police officers, but they didn’t do anything. The settlers had vanished and I couldn’t see them. The officers must have told them to leave because their vehicle, a Mitsubishi pickup truck, was still in the area. One of the soldiers gave us bandages, and we stayed there to wait for the ambulance. About 15 minutes later, an Israeli ambulance arrived and its crew gave us first aid. 

One of the villagers took us in his car to a clinic in ‘Aqraba. From there, they transferred us to hospital in Nablus, where we were X-rayed because of our head injuries. Then they stitched my wound with 16 stitches and also stitched my father’s wound. The doctor prescribed us painkillers and asked us to stay in the hospital for observation, but we both refused. It’s scary to be in hospital right now because of the pandemic.

We came home with bandaged heads and blood-stained clothes. The head of the village council and other residents who came to visit us told us that the settlers had plowed the land. They also plowed our plot, which covers 30 dunams. Apparently, they plowed an area of about 2,000 dunams yesterday. Two large tractors were working there and another bulldozer that cleared stones. They leveled the land and changed the surface so that it all became one big plot. They simply took over our land, calmly and quickly, under the watch of the military and the police.

10

Qusrah, Nablus District: Settlers damage some 190 olive seedlings

On 10 January 2021, three village residents discovered settlers had damaged about 190 olive seedlings they had planted about a month before on their plot south of the village. 

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.

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Diaa' Rustum on a tractor in Kafr Malik’s land before his false arrest, 7 Jan. 2021. Photo: Jihad al-Qaq. Courtesy of Kafr Malik News Broadcast
Diaa' Rustum on a tractor in Kafr Malik’s land before his false arrest, 7 Jan. 2021. Photo: Jihad al-Qaq. Courtesy of Kafr Malik News Broadcast

Kafr Malik, Ramallah District: Soldiers watch settlers attack Palestinian farmers

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.

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Jalud, Nablus District: Settlers uproot some 150 olive seedlings

On 6 January 2021, farmer Mahmoud Muhammad (30), discovered that settlers had uprooted some 150 olive seedlings he had planted about a month before.  

Muhammad’s plot of land lies east of Jalud. The settlement outpost of Ahiya was established in the late 1990s about 200 meters away from the plot. 

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Sarta, Salfit District: Settlers enter village and hurl stones and stun grenade at homes and parked cars

On 4 January 2021, at around 3:00 A.M., eight settlers invaded the southern neighborhood of the village of Sarta, northwest of the town of Salfit. They stoned homes and parked cars, smashed three windows in two homes and hurled a stun grenade at one of the homes, damaging an outer wall. They also smashed two windshields and a side window of two vehicles parked in the area and damaged their tires. Their actions were recorded by a nearby security camera.

In testimonies they gave B'Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi the day after incident, the victims described the attack:. Mustafa Khatib (62), a married father of five, recalled being woken by a stone that hit the window by his bed:

A few months ago I had a heart attack. I haven't fully recovered and haven't gone back to work yet. Since my heart attack I've been sleeping in the living room.

On Monday morning, I woke up and stayed in my bed, which is by the window overlooking the main road. I heard noises and an explosion outside, and then a stone hit the window. It didn't penetrate it but got stuck between the glass and the bars. I got such a fright that I fell out of bed. I crawled away from the window. Meanwhile, my wife came into the living room and I asked her not to go near the window.

At the same time, my son Ayman, who lives in a room on the roof, came downstairs quickly because he thought our cooking gas tank had exploded. I told him to be careful and not go outside because there were people throwing stones and explosives. Ayman and I went up to his room to see what was happening. We saw two masked settlers running towards the olive grove on the southern side of the village.

Mustafa's wife, Sharifah Khatib (55), also told B'Tselem what she recalled of that night:

After Mustafa and Ayman went up to the roof to check what was happening outside, my daughter Hala (17) woke up in fright because of the explosions outside and the stones being thrown at our home. I tried to calm her down, but she was too terrified. After a few moments, Mustafa and Ayman came down and said they’d seen the settlers running away and that the neighbors had gone outside. So we also got up the courage to go outside and see what had happened. We found the tiles on the house’s outer wall charred and a stun grenade lying on the ground in front of the house. We also saw glass shards from the windows they’d smashed. The settlers smashed the windshield of my husband's car and damaged its tires.

In his testimony, Mukhtar Sarsur (35), a father of four, recalled:

On Monday, 4 January 2021, at around 3:00 A.M., I was in bed but hadn't fallen asleep yet. Suddenly, I heard two explosions in our neighborhood. I got up and went to the window overlooking the entrance to the house and the street, and saw four people with masks. Two of them were standing in front of my cousin's house, throwing stones at a car parked out front. The other two were throwing stones at my car, which was parked in front of our home. I immediately went to the children's room to check on them and saw that they were asleep. The neighbors went outside and so did I. I found my car's rear window and side window smashed, and three of its tires damaged.

December 2020

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A seedling uprooted by settlers in Sinjil, 31 Dec. 2020. Photo by ‘Ayed Ghafri
A seedling uprooted by settlers in Sinjil, 31 Dec. 2020. Photo by ‘Ayed Ghafri

Sinjil, Ramallah District: Settlers destroy fruit tree seedlings

On Thursday morning, 31 December 2020, three farmers from Sinjil went to their land, which lies north of the village. The three had planted about 170 seedlings of olive, fig, apple and loquat trees and grapevines a week earlier. When they got there, they discovered that settlers had uprooted about 20 of the seedlings and sprayed the rest with pesticides.

The settlement outpost of Haro’eh was established about a kilometer and a half from the land.

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Shattered windows in a Huwara home, 30 Dec. 2020. Photo courtesy of the Qasrawi family
Shattered windows in a Huwara home, 30 Dec. 2020. Photo courtesy of the Qasrawi family

Huwarah, Nablus District: Settlers attack homes in the town on two consecutive days. Soldiers were present during at least one of the attacks

On 30 December 2020, at around 9:30 P.M., settlers stoned a home on the northern side of Huwarah, about 100 meters away from the intersection at the town entrance on Route 60, smashing two windows.

The next day, 31 December 2020, settlers again came to the entrance of Huwarah and protested there. During the demonstration, where soldiers were present, settlers attacked a home located near the traffic circle, smashing seven of its windows.

Violent settler attacks, long since a routine matter throughout the West Bank, have increased significantly since Ahuvia Sandak, a 16-year-old Israeli, died during a police chase near the settlement of Kochav Hashachar on 21 December 2020.

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A shattered window in 'Ali Dawabsheh's car, Huwarah junction, 28 Dec. 2020. Photo by Ali Dawabsheh
A shattered window in 'Ali Dawabsheh's car, Huwarah junction, 28 Dec. 2020. Photo by Ali Dawabsheh

Huwarah Junction, Nablus District: Settlers block road, throw stones and break car window

On 28 December 2020, at around 8:30 P.M., ‘Ali Dawabsheh (33), a married father of three from the village of Duma in Nablus District, was driving home with two relatives. When the car neared the Huwarah (Yitzhar) Junction, the three saw dozens of settlers blocking the road, with dozens of soldiers and Border Police officers guarding them. The settlers threw stones at Dawabsheh’s car and smashed its right rear window. Dawabsheh stopped the car and got out, but a Border Police officer ordered him to get back in. He obeyed, and then the settlers surrounded his car and started kicking it until the security forces drove them away, at which point Dawabsheh drove home.

The next day, Dawabsheh replaced the window at a cost of 500 shekels (~155 USD).

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, ‘Ali Dawabsheh recounted the settlers’ attack on his car:  

On Monday, 28 December 2020, at around 8:30 P.M., I was driving home from Tulkarm with my two cousins, Saed (40) and Muhammad (31). When we got to Route 60 (near Huwarah/Jit) and were about 30 to 50 meters from the junction, I suddenly saw about 40 settlers blocking the road. There were also about 25 to 30 soldiers and Border Police officers there.

I was nervous and didn’t know what to do. Settlers who were on the right side of the road threw stones at my car and smashed the right rear window. Luckily, Muhammad, who was in back, was lying on the backseat with his head tilted left, otherwise he would have been badly injured.

I got out of the car, and one of the Border Police officers ordered me to get back in. I said to him, “Did you see what they did?” He answered in good Arabic, “It’s good that it ended that way and nothing else happened.” Then he ordered me to get back in the car. I did what he said, and then the settlers, who had gathered around the car, started kicking it. The soldiers made them move away and surrounded the car, and one of the police officers motioned me to drive on. Even though the soldiers were there, the settlers kicked the car a few more times until I got to the Huwarah Junction road, and from there continued to Huwarah.  

I stopped by the roadside and we cleared the shattered glass from the car. Muhammad’s clothes were covered in glass. Thank God no one was hurt. Then we drove on home to Duma.

The soldiers didn’t call the police and didn’t refer me to file a complaint. It all happened before their very eyes, and they didn’t lift a finger.

 

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Muhammad Abu Ta’ah at his driveway, after dozens of setters invaded the neighborhood and terrorized its Arab residents, Abu Ta’ah neighborhood, the French Hill, 26 Dec. 2020. Photo by ‘Amer ‘Aruri, B’Tselem
Muhammad Abu Ta’ah at his driveway, after dozens of setters invaded the neighborhood and terrorized its Arab residents, Abu Ta’ah neighborhood, the French Hill, 26 Dec. 2020. Photo by ‘Amer ‘Aruri, B’Tselem

Abu Ta’ah neighborhood, French Hill, East Jerusalem: Settlers pelt homes and cars with stones

Since 16-year-old Israeli Ahuvia Sandak died during a police chase near the settlement of Kochav Hashachar on 21 December 2020, the number of violent settler attacks against Palestinians has sharply risen throughout the West Bank.

On 26 December 2020, at around 6:00 P.M., thousands of settlers protested in front of the National Police Headquarters on Road 1 in East Jerusalem. About three hours later, dozens of settlers began pelting homes and parked cars in the neighborhood of Abu Ta’ah in the French Hill with stones. Four neighborhood residents came out to protect their homes and threw stones back at the settlers. Officers who arrived at the scene several minutes later, pushed the settlers back, but not before they managed to break a window in one of the homes and the windows of two cars.

Residents of nearby neighborhoods who arrived at the scene stayed on the street until 1:00 A.M. to protect the residents.

Muhammad Abu Ta’ah, 55, a married mother of five who lives in the French Hill spoke about the settler attack in his neighborhood in a testimony he gave B'Tselem field researcher 'Amer ‘Aruri:
On Saturday, 26 December 2020, at around 6:00 P.M., settlers started demonstrating on Road 1. At around 8:00 P.M., settlers arrived in our area and stood in front of the neighborhood. I saw them blocking the street on both ends, in front of the white statue, and attacking cars that were passing by - apparently cars they thought belonged to Arabs. They were shouting, “death to Arabs.” There was a large police contingent there.

At around 9:00 P.M., the settlers started throwing stones at the neighborhood. The two closest houses to Road 1 in the neighborhood are ours and my cousin’s Muhannad Abu Ta’ah. Muhannad and I went out to see what was going on, and two residents from the neighborhood joined us. We threw stones back at the settlers to get them away from our homes. It was only when the police saw us throwing stones back at the settlers that they intervened.

Asmaa Siyam, 51, Muhammad’s wife and a mother of five, who lives in the French Hill, spoke about the settler attack on her home and neighborhood in a testimony she gave B'Tselem field researcher 'Amer ‘Aruri:

On 26 December 2020, I was at my house in the Abu Ta’ah neighborhood in the French Hill. My daughters Israa, 30, and Razan, 22, and my son, Suhayb, 15, were with me. My husband stood outside and watched the settlers’ demonstration in front of the National Headquarters.

At around 9:00 P.M., I heard my husband yelling and crying out for help. I came out with my daughters and my son and saw my husband, our neighbor Muhannad Abu Ta’ah and two others, and about 50 settlers who had entered the neighborhood. My daughters started yelling and screaming, and Suhayb was also very scared.

We tried throwing stones back at them to protect our homes. There were only four of us, and 50 settlers in front of us with hundreds more on the main road, in front of the neighborhood, shouting “Death to Arabs.”

I felt that they were about to kill us.

A few minutes later, police officers came and pushed the settlers away. My husband stayed standing in front of the house to protect it and refused to come inside. I stayed with him, and more residents came and stood by our side. Thank God they only damaged one window in our house and a few cars parked on the street.

The settlers left the area at around 1:00 A.M., but we didn’t fall asleep until 5:00 A.M., as the sun went up. We were really worried the settlers would come back. A few friends and relatives stayed with us for three days after the attack, in case the settlers attacked again.

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Jalud, Nablus District: Dozens of masked settlers enter village and throw stones at homes and parked cars

Since 16-year-old Israeli Ahuvia Sandak died during a police chase near the settlement of Kochav Hashachar on 21 December 2020, the number of violent settler attacks against Palestinians has sharply risen throughout the West Bank.

On 23 December 2020, at around 10:00 P.M., about 30 masked settlers arrived at the southeastern neighborhood of Jalud, a village in Nablus District, and pelted homes and cars with stones. The settlers broke a security camera and the windows of three cars. Local residents chased them and they escaped towards the outpost of Ahiya. About half an hour later, five soldiers came to the village from the direction of the outpost. They spoke with locals and took photos of the damage done to the cars. In the meantime, the settlers returned and ignored the soldiers’ instructions to keep away. The soldiers called in Border Police forces, and when they arrived about 30 minutes later, the settlers again fled towards the outpost. The forces then left, and a military jeep was posted on the outskirts of the outpost. Village residents remained out in the street until the small hours of the night to protect their property, and then returned home.

Na'im Farah ‘Abbad, a 36-year-old married father of five from Jalud, spoke about the settler attack in a testimony he gave B'Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i:

On Wednesday, 23 December 2020, I was visiting my parents with my wife Rana (28) and our children (eight months to 12) in the southeastern part of the village.

At around 10:00 P.M., we were sitting in their home chatting and drinking tea, when I heard noises outside. I went out and saw 10-15 settlers by my car. They took off when they saw me, and I discovered they’d broken all the windows. I heard my cousin Muhammad, who lives near my parents, yelling: “Settlers! Settlers are breaking cars!” I followed him with some other cousins of mine, and I saw about 30 settlers running towards the outpost of Ahiya. It looked like they’d split into two groups – one damaged my car, and the other damaged Muhammad’s car.

We ran after them but kept about a 200-meter distance, because we were scared they’d shoot us. They ran off, and we went back to our homes. Because of the yelling, all the residents of the neighborhood came out of their houses. When I got back, my wife was outside, too. She told me my mother had fainted, apparently from the stress and fear. She’s a diabetic and has high blood pressure. My brother Nassim and I drove her to hospital in Nablus, where they examined her and then released her.

Muhammad ‘Abbad (37), a married father of six from Jalud, also spoke about that night in a testimony he gave B'Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb'i:

About half an hour after the attack, while we were still standing outside, about five or six soldiers came from the direction of the Ahiya outpost. They asked about what happened and took pictures of the cars. One of them spoke Arabic well, and they left soldiers in a military jeep around to keep watch.

While the soldiers were in the village, the settlers came back and got up to about 100 meters away from our houses. The soldiers yelled at them but didn’t stop them from approaching. They called a Border Police force, which came about half an hour later. It was only then that the settlers left. The soldiers and Border Police officers left the village and kept a military jeep on the outskirts of the outpost.

We stayed in the yard and didn’t go back inside until 3:00 A.M. It was cold and by then, I couldn’t see the jeep anymore. It must have driven off.

We’ve been on constant alert ever since that day, afraid of another attack. I can’t sleep at night. I’m worried they’ll surprise us and this time, torch the cars or one of the houses. Thank God the kids were asleep during the attack; otherwise, they would have been very frightened. I asked my wife not to let them play in the yard or in the village with other kids, like they usually do.

The outpost of Ahiya was established in 2015 about a kilometer away from Jalud.

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Iyad Hamuda’s windshield, after it was smashed by a stone thrown by a settler, Route 60, Ariel junction, 22 Dec. 2020. Photo by Iyad Hamuda
Iyad Hamuda’s windshield, after it was smashed by a stone thrown by a settler, Route 60, Ariel junction, 22 Dec. 2020. Photo by Iyad Hamuda

Road 60, Ari’el Junction: dozens of settlers pelted car with stones

Since 16-year-old Israeli Ahuvia Sandak died during a police chase near the settlement of Kochav Hashachar on 21 December 2020, the number of violent settler attacks against Palestinians has sharply risen throughout the West Bank.

On 22 December 2020, at around 10:00 P.M., Iyad Hamuda, 42, a father of six from the village of Kharbata al-Mesbah was driving on Road 60. As he approached the Salfit intersection (Ari’el University), Hamuda drove past a police cruiser, and then, dozens of settlers pelted his car with stones, breaking the front windshield and side-view mirrors. The officers did not intervene.

Hamuda kept driving for about 100 meters until he reached two police cruisers and a military vehicle that were pulled over by the side of the road. He stopped to report the incident, but they signaled for him to keep driving.

Hamuda’s windshield and side-view mirrors were repaired the next day for several hundred NIS.

In the testimony he gave B'Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, Hamuda described the settler attack on his car in the presence of police and military and the indifference shown by police officers in the area:

I was driving my car home to Kharbata al-Mesbah, Ramallah District, on Road 60.

I approached the Salfit (Ari’el University) intersection, which branches out of Road 60. When I was 100-200 meters away from the intersection, I saw about six or seven Israel Police and military vehicles and dozens of settlers. I slowed down and kept driving. I passed a police car that was parked about 20-30 meters ahead of the intersection, and the officers never warned me or said anything. They let me fall prey to the settlers.

After I passed the police car, I found myself surrounded by settlers. They were spread out in the middle of the road over more than 100 meters. They were holding signs and flags, and some had sticks and bats. They were in a rage and started throwing stones at my car. One stone hit the front windshield and cracked it. I was terrified, and I didn’t know what to do. I put my head down and kept driving. I drove about 30 or 40 meters, with stones hitting the body of the car, especially on the left. The two side-view mirrors were damaged.

After about 100 meters, I came across two police cars and a military vehicle, and I told them what had happened.  The officer in the driver’s side seat instructed me to keep driving.

I drove another 30 meters, and then I saw officers stopping cars driving in the opposite direction. There were about 20 vehicles there. I stopped and warned the drivers.  

I drove on for about three kilometers, until the a-Sawiyah intersection, and pulled over there. I called the Israel Police and complained about what happened and about the police and military being around and doing nothing. They suggested I file a complaint at the Ari’el police station and asked if I needed an ambulance. I said I didn’t and that I couldn’t drive back to the station. The lady told me to go tomorrow.
I was very scared because it was very difficult to see through the cracked windshield, and so I drove slowly and carefully, and it took me more than an hour to get home. My family was waiting for me at home, very worried. That night was a nightmare, like a horror movie. Thank God I wasn’t hurt and came out of it in one piece.

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 A wound in Sadeq Khatatbeh’s forehead, caused by glass shards in the window of the car he was driving, after a settler threw stones at it, Route 60, 21 Dec. 2020. Photo by Sadeq Khatatbeh
A wound in Sadeq Khatatbeh’s forehead, caused by glass shards in the window of the car he was driving, after a settler threw stones at it, Route 60, 21 Dec. 2020. Photo by Sadeq Khatatbeh

Road 60, near the entrance to Shavei Shomron: Dozens of settlers stone Palestinian vehicles

Since 16-year-old Israeli Ahuvia Sandak died during a police chase near the settlement of Kochav Hashachar on 21 December 2020, the number of violent settler attacks against Palestinians has sharply risen throughout the West Bank.

On 21 December 2020, at around 4:30 P.M., Islam ‘Awadallah, 23, a resident of the village of ‘Attil, arrived at the Sarra-Jit junction.  He was driving his truck, on route to Tulkarm, with a passenger, Ahmad Badran, 23, from Tulkarm. ‘Awadallah was planning to turn onto Road 55, but when the truck arrived at the intersection, the two noticed Palestinian vehicles that had taken that turn were turning back. Settlers had blocked the road near the settlement of Kedumim. ‘Awadallah was not able to make the U-turn due to the size of his truck and continued driving north on Road 60. As they approached the entrance to the settlement of Shavei Shomron, they came across dozens of settlers who began pelting the truck with stones, breaking its windshield and side windows. Fearful, ‘Awadallah and Badran abandoned the truck in the middle of the road and fled on foot. They waited for about an hour, and when they returned, they found the truck in a ditch by the side of the road with its four front tires punctured.

‘Awadallah had to drive the truck with the punctured tires to Deir Sharaf, where he was able to change them. He replaced the broken windows the next day. The total cost of the repairs surpassed 3,000 NIS (nearly 1,000 USD).

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi, Islam ‘Awadallah described the settler attack on his truck:

I’m a truck driver, and I drive to the Sha'ar Efrayim commercial crossing every day, load the truck and distribute the goods to stores in the West Bank.

On that day, I was riding with a work colleague, Ahmad Badran. At around 4:30 P.M., we were driving back from Nablus on Road 60. When we got to the Sarra-Jit intersection, I was going to turn onto Road 55, but we suddenly noticed that cars that had made the turn were making a U-turn and heading back. When we asked the drivers what happened, they told us settlers were blocking the road to Qalqiliyah near the settlement of Kedumim.

I couldn’t make a U-turn because of the size of the truck, so I just kept going straight on Road 60. I was going to turn onto Road 557 and drive toward Tulkarm. As we came closer to the entrance to Shavei Shomron settlement, I again saw Palestinian cars stopping, turning around and heading back towards Nablus. As soon as I started slowing down in order to stop, dozens of settlers attacked the truck with stones.

Ahmad, who was sitting next to me, opened the truck door and fled, running, towards Nablus. The settlers kept throwing stones at the truck, breaking the front windshield and side windows. I was very scared. I also opened the door and abandoned the truck with the engine still running. I ran in the direction of Nablus and Deir Sharaf.

I ran for about 500 meters until I found Ahmad and some other drivers, who had gathered on the western part of Deir Sharaf. We waited there until the army came and opened the road after about an hour.

Ahmad and I decided to go back to the truck, but when we got to the spot where we’d left it, it wasn’t there. We found it near the road, with the tires in a drainage ditch by the side of the road. In addition to the broken windows, its four front tires were punctured. I still drove it to Deir Sharaf to get the tires changed.

About half an hour later, at around 5:00 P.M., Sadeq Khatatbeh, 24, who was driving with a friend from Tulkarm, where they work, home to Beit Furik, also arrived at the entrance to Shavei Shomron. Dozens of settlers, some of them masked, attacked their car with stones as well. One stone shattered the driver’s side window and entered the car. Khatatbeh was hit in the head, above the right eye. He kept driving for about 100 meters, and then pulled over, got out of the car, walked a few steps and fell down. A passing car stopped. One of its passengers got into Khatatbeh’s car and drove him and his friend to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus. Khatatbeh was examined and x-rayed, and doctors treated the scratches on his face. He was released after about two hours.

In a testimony he gave B'Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, Sadeq Khatatbeh described his injury and the settler attack on his car:

I was driving home with a friend from work from the construction site where we work in Tulkarm. As we approached the entrance to the settlement of Shavei Shomron, we suddenly saw 20-25 settlers on the left side of the road, most of them masked. They threw stones at us. I heard a very strong thud and felt glass flying into my face. I couldn’t see anything in front of me, but I kept driving.

About 100 meters farther down the road, I could barely open my right eye. I pulled over on the shoulder. I opened the door and went out. My head was hurting, and blood was dripping down my face and clothes. I couldn’t feel my face at all. I took only a few steps forward and then fell down.
In the meantime, a car that had come from the direction of Tulkarm stopped, and the young guys in it helped me and put me back in my car. One of them got in and drove the car because Yusef can’t drive. They took me to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus.

I was x-rayed, and the wound on my face was treated. Yusef, who was in shock, and I, stayed at the hospital for about two hours and then went home.

Thank God we didn’t get hit by the stone that got into the car. It’s still there. We were saved from certain death, but I’m concerned because I still can’t see well, and I’m worried my eye was damaged. The area has since swollen, and I have a blue bruise on my face.

The bruise on Subhi Shalaldeh’s back after a settler ran him over with an ATV. al-Qanub, 21 Dec. 2020
The bruise on Subhi Shalaldeh’s back after a settler ran him over with an ATV. al-Qanub, 21 Dec. 2020

Al-Qanub area, Hebron District: Armed settlers drive two shepherds out of pastureland and run one over with ATV

On Monday morning, 21 December 2020, Subhi (32) and Walid (35) Shalaldeh were out grazing their flock on pastureland they own in the area of al-Qanub, about five kilometers east of Sa’ir, in Hebron District. Israel has declared this land ‘state land’ and allocated it to area settlements, including the settlement of Asfar (Metzad) established in 1983 about three kilometers from the family’s home.  

At around 1:30 P.M., a vehicle with several settlers arrived. About 15 minutes later, they were joined by an ATV with four settlers, who were armed with handguns and had two dogs with them. The settlers hurled stones at the flock and set their dogs on them. Two of the settlers also attacked Walid Shalaldeh. The two brothers, who feared for their lives, gathered their flock and ran back towards their home.

Meanwhile, a family member called their parents, Muhammad (73) and Zuhour (66), and told them what had happened. The parents started running towards the pastureland. When they had gone about 70 meters, they saw their sons come running after the flock, with the settlers chasing them in the vehicle and the ATV. While Muhammad Shalaldeh was asking the settlers about their actions, the ATV driver hit his son Subhi, knocked him to the ground and drove over him again and again until Subhi blacked out.

At that point, Muhammad picked up a stone to throw at the ATV driver in order to protect his son, but the settler who was driving the other vehicle got out and pushed the ATV driver out of his seat.

Immediately afterwards, the settlers left. The family called the UN office and asked them to send an ambulance, which arrived about 15 minutes later and took Subhi to ‘Aliyah Hospital in Hebron. He was X-rayed and examined, and found to be suffering bruising. He was discharged at about 4:00 P.M.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bari, Subhi Shalaldeh recounted how the settlers attacked him and his brother and drove them out of the pastureland:

On Monday, 21December 2020, at around 1:30 P.M., my brother Walid and I were tending to our sheep on our land, about two kilometers away from our home and about five kilometers from the settlement of Metzad. A car with several settlers stopped next to us and we saw one of them talking on his mobile phone. He was probably calling more settlers to come.

About 15 minutes later, an ATV arrived with four settlers in their twenties. They had two huge, unleashed dogs with them. The moment the settlers reached us, they released the dogs, who started chasing the sheep. The settlers also started throwing stones at the sheep.

Two of the settlers attacked my brother Walid – slapping, punching, and kicking him. Walid and I didn’t even try to defend ourselves, because four or five of them had handguns and we were afraid they’d kill us. We tried to gather the scattered sheep and led them home. We thought the settlers had left.

In a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bari, Subhi’s mother, Zuhour Shalaldeh, described what happened next:

On 21 December 2020, I was sitting with my husband in front of our tents. Suddenly, a relative called and told us that settlers were attacking Subhi and Walid, who were out with the flock. My husband immediately called Walid, who answered the phone and said that settlers were attacking them and that they had dogs. Then he stopped talking and didn’t answer our questions, although he was still on the line. We heard shouting.

My husband and I ran towards the pastureland but after we moved about 70 meters away from the house, we couldn’t go on. We were out of breath and exhausted. My legs hurt and I couldn’t stand. We could see our sheep running towards the house from the area we’d reached, and then we saw Walid and Subhi running behind them and trying to control them.

Before Walid got a chance to tell us what happened, a car with three settlers armed with handguns drove up, followed by an ATV with two settlers and two huge dogs. My husband blocked the first car’s path and ask the driver for his name. The driver said his name was Ibrahim, and then my husband started talking with him and asking him why they’d attacked our sons.

At the same time, the ATV driver suddenly drove towards Subhi and hit him. Subhi fell on his back and then the ATV drove over him a few times, with the wheels going over both sides of his body, mostly hitting his arms and legs. Subhi fainted and the settler kept driving over him. He did that about three times. I froze at the sight. I cried and screamed and covered my face with dirt. Then I saw my husband pick up a large stone to throw it at the ATV driver, but the settler who called himself “Ibrahim” grabbed the driver and knocked him out of his seat. The ATV rant into the settlers’ car and turned off.

My husband and I picked Subhi up to get him away from there. He was unconscious and his clothes were torn. We took him about 20 meters away and laid him down by the roadside. The settlers got in their cars and fled. My husband called the UN office and asked them to call an ambulance. We live in a remote area and there’s no one who can help us. About 15 minutes later, a Red Crescent ambulance arrived and took Subhi to ‘Aliyah Hospital.

I’m still in shock. My whole body is in pain from the sight of the ATV running over my son. I can’t let go of it. I burst into tears whenever I remember that sight. Of course, I’m sad over both my sons and what happened to them. Subhi  still doesn’t feel well. His whole body is in pain.

Muhammad a-Tmeizi (13), hit in the head by a stone thrown by settlers at the truck he was traveling in, Route 60, Beit ‘Einun junction, 21 Dec. 2020. Photo by Manal al-Ja’bari, B’Tselem
Muhammad a-Tmeizi (13), hit in the head by a stone thrown by settlers at the truck he was traveling in, Route 60, Beit ‘Einun junction, 21 Dec. 2020. Photo by Manal al-Ja’bari, B’Tselem

Road 60, Beit ‘Einun: Settlers stone truck, causing head injury to 13-year-old

Since 16-year-old Israeli Ahuvia Sandak died during a police chase near the settlement of Kochav Hashachar on 21 December 2020, the number of violent settler attacks against Palestinians has sharply risen throughout the West Bank.

On 21 December 2020, at around 6:00 A.M., Muhammad a-Tmeizi, 34, drove his truck with a trailer hitched to it. His cousin Mahmoud a-Tmeizi, 13, was in the truck with him, and the two were making their way home to the village of Idhna, Hebron District. When they arrived at the neighborhood of Giv'at Haharsinah in the settlement of Kiryat Arba, they came across dozens of settlers who were blocking the road and signaling drivers to turn around. A-Tmeizi couldn’t make the turn due to the size of his truck and stopped in the middle of the road. Several minutes later, a police cruiser arrived, and the officers started pushing the settlers away from the road. One officer signaled to a-Tmeizi to drive on, and a police cruiser escorted him for several hundred meters until he left the area.

He kept driving until the entrance to Beit ‘Einun, where he noticed several settlers crossing the road. He slowed down, and the settlers began throwing stones at him. One penetrated through the front windshield, hitting 13-year-old Mahmoud in the face. A-Tmeizi himself received scratches from the glass shards. The settlers, meanwhile, ran off, and he continued driving until he came across a police cruiser and military jeeps at the Road 35 intersection to whom he reported the incident.

A-Tmeizi then drove to al-Ahali Hospital in Hebron, where Mahmoud was examined and x-rayed and had his forehead stitched. The two were released from hospital at around 11:00 P.M.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bri, 13-year-old Mahmoud a-Tmeizi, recounted the attack:

I’m an eighth-grader. Schools are closed now because of the coronavirus, and I’m bored sitting at home all the time. I started working with my cousin, Muhammad a-Tmeizi, hauling.

On Monday, 21 December 2020, at around 6:00 P.M., we were riding in his truck to Sa’ir. When we got to Road 60, before the Harsina gas station, we saw about 30 settlers blocking the road. They were gesturing to drivers that the road was closed. We couldn’t turn back because the truck has a trailer.  Muhammad kept driving slowly, and then a police car came, removed the settlers and signaled to him to keep driving. The police car drove in front of us until we were away from the settlers. We thought we were out of danger and kept driving toward Sa’ir.

Before we made it to the Beit ‘Einun traffic circle, we saw some more settlers crossing the road. Muhammad slowed down, and then suddenly, the settlers started throwing stones at the truck. I was really scared and started crying and screaming. I locked the truck doors from the inside and then a stone got in through the front windshield and hit my head. Glass shards flew and hit my face. I started bleeding.

Muhammad stopped the truck, and when the settlers saw that, they ran away. I was crying and groaning with pain, and Muhammad got me out of the truck to check on me. He wiped the blood off my face, and we both shook the glass shards out of our hair and off the truck seats and drove to the hospital in Hebron.  

In a testimony given to B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bri, Muhammad a-Tmeizi described what happened after the attack.

When we arrived at the Beit ‘Einun traffic circle, I saw two Israel Police cars and Border Police jeeps by the side of the road. I stopped the truck in the middle of the road; I literally blocked the road, got out and walked over to the officers, along with Mahmoud, whose forehead was still bleeding. They didn’t give him any first aid, just suggested we drive to the hospital and file a complaint at the Kiryat Arba police station. I unhitched the trailer from the truck, left it by the side of the road, and quickly drove to al-Ahali Hospital in Hebron, where they took care of Mahmoud’s injuries and gave him x-rays. We left the hospital at 11:00 P.M.

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Hilal Daraghmeh evacuated by ambulance after being beaten unconscious by settlers. ‘Um al-‘Ubar, 20 Dec. 2020. Photo by ‘Aref Daraghmeh, B’Tselem
Hilal Daraghmeh evacuated by ambulance after being beaten unconscious by settlers. ‘Um al-‘Ubar, 20 Dec. 2020. Photo by ‘Aref Daraghmeh, B’Tselem

Um al-‘Ubar, northern Jordan Valley: Settlers drive out Palestinian shepherds and beat one of them unconscious

On Sunday morning, 20 December 2020, Hilal Daraghmeh (28) and his cousin, both residents of Khirbet ‘Ein al-Hilweh, were out grazing their cattle in the area of Um al-‘Ubar. The pastureland lies about 100 meters west of Route 90.  

At around 8:00 A.M., after the two split up, about five settlers approached Hilal Daraghmeh and started driving his cattle away so they could graze their flock in the area. His cousin, who saw what was happening, grew frightened and led his cows away. Meanwhile, one of the settlers went over to Daraghmeh, hit him in the head, and kicked him until he lost consciousness and fell over. The settlers then left, and Daraghmeh’s cousin hurried back to him and called for help. A military vehicle and an Israeli ambulance arrived, and the medical team gave Daraghmeh first aid. About an hour later, a Red Crescent ambulance arrived and took Daraghmeh to hospital in Tubas, where he was examined and discharged.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher ‘Aref Daraghmeh, Hilal Daraghmeh described how the settlers attacked him:

I live in the area of Khirbet ‘Ein al-Hilweh and recently got married. I go out every morning with my cousins to graze my cows.

On 20 December 2020, my cousin and I went out with the cows as usual to the area of al-‘Ubar, which is about three kilometers from my home. My cousin was grazing his herd about 100 meters away from me.  

Suddenly, I saw several settlers I know, most of them from the settlement of Hemdat. They graze their herds there in the morning, too. They went over to our cows and started driving them away.

One of them came up to me, hit me in the face several times, and kicked me in several parts of my body until I blacked out. When I came to, I saw a military jeep arriving and then blacked out again. I woke up in an Israeli ambulance and felt dizzy. They transferred me to a Red Crescent ambulance that took me to hospital in Tubas, where I was examined and X-rayed. I was discharged a few hours later.  

We’ve been grazing our cows here quietly for many years, but in the last few years the settlers have started taking over the area and building outposts around us. They started grazing their herds in our pastureland. They have a lot of cows, which they spread out over the entire area and prevent us from accessing many places. They put up fences and closed off thousands of dunams of pastureland. Every day, they chase us, and sometimes they attack us. We’re forced to graze our herds along the sides of the main roads. It’s dangerous, but we have no choice.

The military stands by them, protects them and helps them drive us out of the pastureland. Sometimes the military even detains us for hours to stop us from going there.

The settlement of Shadmot Mehola was established about two kilometers northeast of the pastureland where Daraghmeh was attacked.

 

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A broken olive seedling in Ribhi Na’asan’s plot, al-Mughayir, 19 Dec. 2020. Photo by Nizar Na’asan
A broken olive seedling in Ribhi Na’asan’s plot, al-Mughayir, 19 Dec. 2020. Photo by Nizar Na’asan

Al-Mughayir, Ramallah District: Settlers break 40 olive seedlings

On Saturday morning, 19 December 2020, Rawhi a-Na’asan (69), a father of 17, discovered that settlers had broken 40 five-year-old olive seedlings he had planted in his plot. This is not the first time a-Na’asan has faced damage to his crops: on May 2020, he discovered 52 broken seedlings in his plot, a day after soldiers invaded it, threatened a farmer who was working in a nearby plot and drove him away from the area.

A-Na’asan’s plot lies east of the Alon Road (Route 458).

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