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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.

March 2020

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

Red Line?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

Burin: Settlers attack home; soldiers protect them and fire tear gas at residents

Some 10 settlers, accompanied by about five soldiers, damaged a house under construction owned by Muntasser Mansur, on the eastern side of the village. The settlers vandalized three exterior walls of the house, broke sewage pipes and scattered cement sacks - all under the protection of soldiers, who fired tear-gas canisters at residents trying to protect the house. The damage caused by the settlers was estimated at 2,000 NIS (~560 USD).

 Mansur’s house has been attacked and damaged by settlers several times. The Civil Administration has tried to prevent Mansur from building it and has given him several stop-work injunctions, although the house lies in Area B, where the Palestinian Authority holds planning jurisdiction and has given Mansur a building permit.

Burin, Nablus District, 10 March 2020: Settlers attack home; soldiers protect them and fire tear gas at residents.

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Musa Zeid
Musa Zeid

A-Nu'eimeh: Settler attacks shepherds

On 8 March 2020, Musa Zeid (25) set out from a-Nu’eimeh with his brothers and sisters to graze their flock not far from the village. They were accompanied by activists from the Solidarity movement. A settler has taken over hundreds of hectares nearby and built an outpost named Havat Omer. As the shepherds were grazing their flock, the settler arrived and started to chase them with his truck, shouting and threatening to run over the flock. Luckily, the shepherds and the activists managed to escape unharmed. 

א-נוייעמה, בקעת הירדן, 8.3.20: מתנחל תקף רועי צאן.

A-Nu'eimeh, Jordan Valley, 8 March 2020: Settler attacks shepherds.

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Madama: Settlers attack home, soldiers fire live rounds in the air and tear-gas canisters at residents

On 7 March 2020, about 15 settlers, including the armed chief of security of Yitzhar, entered the village of Madama and started hurling stones at houses. Residents who heard the commotion went outside to see what was happening. As in other cases, some 15 soldiers summoned there began firing live rounds in the air and tear-gas canisters at the residents who had gathered to defend their homes.

In a verbal exchange that ensued, the soldiers detained a B’Tselem volunteer who was documenting the incident, confiscated his and another volunteer’s cameras and gave them to Yitzhar’s chief of security, who then erased some footage of the incident. Read more....

Madama, 7 March 2020: Settlers attack home, soldiers fire live rounds in the air and tear-gas canisters at residents

Madama, 7 March 2020: Settlers attack home, soldiers fire live rounds in the air and tear-gas canisters at residents.

Burin: Settlers attack home at edge of village, soldiers open live fire at occupants

On Saturday, 7 March 2020, at around midday, ‘Ali ‘Eid (16) and his brother Osama (20) were at home on the eastern side of the village. Suddenly, about eight settlers started throwing stones at the house, shattering two windows and a security camera. The home is a target as it lies on the outskirts of the village, about a kilometer from the settlement of Har Bracha and the outpost of Giv’at Sneh Ya’akov, and about two kilometers from the settlement of Yitzhar. When the settlers started to withdraw, Ali opened a window to see what was going on. In response, a soldier fired a stun grenade at him. Village residents then gathered around the house to check on ‘Ali and his brother. The two climbed up to the roof to reassure the residents they weren't injured. When the soldiers noticed them, they began firing live rounds at them, and also fired tear-gas canisters and stun grenades at the residents gathered around the house. ‘Ali and his brother went back into the house, fortunately unharmed. 

Burin, 7 March 2020: Settlers attack home at edge of village, soldiers open live fire at occupants

Burin, 7 March 2020: Settlers attack home at edge of village, soldiers open live fire at occupants.

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Khirbet Jib’it: Settlers steal 25 lambs

On 5 March 2020, while 'Umran Abu 'Alia and his family were busy milking their sheep, settlers arrived and snuck into the lambs, held 100 meters away from the lambs pen, and stole 25 lambs.

This followed a settler raid on the community’s tents several days earlier on the false grounds that residents had stolen sheep from them, although the settlers found nothing

Khirbet Jib’it, 5 March 2020: Settlers steal 25 lambs.

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Taysir Naji, next to one of the broken trees. Photo by Abdulkarim Sadi, B'Tselem, 3 March 2020
Taysir Naji, next to one of the broken trees. Photo by Abdulkarim Sadi, B'Tselem, 3 March 2020

Kafr a-Dik: Armed settlers “hike” with children in resident’s grove and break branches

On the morning of 2 March 2020, Taysir Naji (70) went to his olive grove, located west of the village, as he does every day. The settlement of Pedu’el was built about three kilometers from the grove, across the valley. When he got there, he found some 12 olive seedlings uprooted and lying on the ground and a group of about 40 settlers, including women, children and armed men.

Naji went up to one of the settlers, who was carrying a rifle, and asked why the seedlings had been broken. The settler denied the claim, threatened Naji and demanded he leave. Fearing for his safety, Naji left, alerted his son and reported what had happened to the village council.

After about 15 minutes, Naji’s son, ‘Abed (24), arrived. He went over to the settlers and asked them to leave the family’s grove. The settlers refused and in the ensuing argument, one drew his weapon and threatened ‘Abed. At that point, about 15 village residents arrived and the settlers left. Naji filed a complaint with the Palestinian DCO but has yet to hear back from the Israeli authorities.

Kafr a-Dik, 2 March 2020: Armed settlers “hike” with children in resident’s grove and break branches.

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Jamal Salameh. Photo by Abdulkarim Sadi, B'Tselem, 3 March 2020
Jamal Salameh. Photo by Abdulkarim Sadi, B'Tselem, 3 March 2020

“The settlers want to take over my land, but I’m determined to keep working it”


Jamal Salameh, 60, from the Palestinian village of Bruqin, has high-yielding land. Three years ago, he planted 100 olive trees, which grow alongside pomegranate, fig, loquat, and guava trees and vegetable crops. Salameh visits his plot daily and when he arrived there on Sunday, 1 March 2020, he immediately noticed something was amiss: 20 olive and 60 cucumber seedlings had been uprooted and the branches of three olive trees broken. A shepherd from the village who passed by said he had seen three settlers in the plot the day before.

Salameh replanted the olive seedlings and notified the municipality of Bruqin and the ministry of agriculture in Salfit of the damage. 

Two years ago, 40 olive trees were destroyed in Salameh’s plot; nine years ago, settlers set fire to some 400 olive trees on farmland belonging to residents of Bruqin, including Salameh. They were then spotted fleeing towards the settlement of Bruchin.

In a testimony he gave to B’Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi, Salameh described the settlers’ damage to Palestinian property in the Bruqin area:

“This recurring aggression has one purpose – to remove me from the land, so that I don’t work the land or raise crops on it. The settlers want the land for themselves. They want to prevent my access and take it over. I am determined to keep cultivating my land, even if the violent acts continue. In the past, I filed complaints but there were no results. This time I decided not to file a complaint because I’m convinced they will do nothing to the perpetrators and I won’t get any justice”. 

Brukin, 1 March 2020 – settlers uproot and break dozens of olive and cucumber seedlings.

EU

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