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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.

October 2020

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The Musa family’s grove, Ramallah District, 26 Oct. 2020. Photo by Jibril Sadiq
The Musa family’s grove, Ramallah District, 26 Oct. 2020. Photo by Jibril Sadiq

Ramallah District: Settlers plow soil in olive grove, uproot fruit-bearing trees and steal 10

The Musa family from Qaryut owns several dunams [1 dunam = 1,000 square meters] of farmland south of their village and east of Turmusaya, in Ramallah District. The settlement outposts of Adei Ad and Esh Kodesh were established on land belonging to area villages on either side of Qaryut and Turmusaya. Due to the proximity to the outposts, the military permits the family access to the land only during the plowing and harvest seasons.    

This year, the military permitted the family to harvest their land from 26 October to 5 November 2020. However, when they arrived on the first day, they discovered that settlers had plowed a dunam of soil in their grove, uprooted 20 olive trees that were 50 years old and stolen 10 of them.

The farmers estimated that the trees had been uprooted about two months earlier, under cover of the military ban on the family’s access to the land most of the year. A mature olive tree can yield about 15 liters of oil a year, selling at 500 to 700 shekels (~152-215 USD) in the market. This means an annual loss of more than 10,000 shekels (~3,055 USD) from the uprooted trees.

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‘Abd al-Basset Ahmad who was wounded during the attack on his home, ‘Asirah al-Qibliyah, 24 Oct. 2020. Photo by Salma a-Deb’i, B’Tselem.
‘Abd al-Basset Ahmad who was wounded during the attack on his home, ‘Asirah al-Qibliyah, 24 Oct. 2020. Photo by Salma a-Deb’i, B’Tselem.

‘Asirah al-Qibliyah, Nablus District: Some 20 settlers stone Palestinian family’s home, injuring father

On Saturday, 24 October 2020, ‘Abed al-Basset and Maysaa’ Ahmad (both 52) were at home with three of their six children and a grandson. At around 3:30 P.M., a village resident called to say he had noticed settlers approaching their home. ‘Abed al-Basset went outside and saw some 20 settlers drawing near. He tried to stop them from reaching his home, and in response, they starting throwing stones at him. One of the stones hit him in the head and he started bleeding.

About an hour later, soldiers arrived in a military jeep and threw stun grenades at residents who had gathered to defend the house. The settlers moved about 100 meters away, and several soldiers kept them at bay. The other soldiers stayed by the house. About a half hour later, the soldiers and the settlers left.

‘Abed al-Basset went to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus, where his head was bandaged and he was discharged. In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a Deb’i on 25 October 2020, he spoke about the attack:

I was at home with my wife and three of our kids – Muhammad, Anis and Bisan – and our grandson Sham. I make sure not to go to work on Saturdays because that’s when settlers tend to attack our homes. At around 3:30 P.M., a village resident called and told me that a group of settlers was making its way towards our house from the east.

I immediately went up to the roof and saw about 20 masked settlers behind the neighboring house, which belongs to my son Rafiq. I climbed back down and asked my wife to close all the doors and windows. Then I went outside to shout at the settlers to leave, because I was afraid they’d come inside.

The settlers were about three meters away and the minute they saw me, they started throwing stones at me. I tried to hide behind a fence and picked up a stick to try and scare them away, but they kept throwing stones at me.  

I heard my wife screaming and calling for help, but I knew that our neighbors were out harvesting and that if anyone was home, it was probably women and children.

The settlers threw a lot of stones at me, which hit me in the legs, shoulders and arms. A stone hit my head and I heard one of them say: “Blood!” I said nothing was wrong, but then I suddenly saw a lot of blood dripping. Just then, some village residents arrived and the settlers backed away a bit and kept on throwing stones at us. About an hour later, a military jeep arrived from the direction of Yitzhar. The soldiers came towards us, threw about four stun grenades at us and fired several shots in the air. One of them said he was an officer and didn’t want any trouble. He said the police were on the way.

Things calmed down a bit and I told the residents that the police would come and we’d file a complaint. The settlers moved about 100 meters away and six soldiers went along and kept them from reaching us. The other soldiers stayed next to us, to keep us away from the settlers.

About an hour after the incident, the head of the village council took me to hospital, where they stitched up my wound and discharged me. When I got home, I found out that the police had never arrived and that the soldiers had stayed until nightfall and left.

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Muhammad Ziben, who was attacked by settlers while working his family’s plot, Burin, 23 Oct. 2020. Photo by Salma a-Deb’i, B’Tselem.
Muhammad Ziben, who was attacked by settlers while working his family’s plot, Burin, 23 Oct. 2020. Photo by Salma a-Deb’i, B’Tselem.

Burin, Nablus District: Settlers stone family harvesting olives and injure member

On Friday, 23 October 2020, at around midday, members of the Ziben family were harvesting olives in their grove south of the village. Suddenly, seven settlers appeared, surrounded the family and started throwing stones at them.

Brothers Imad (58) and Bashir (64) Ziben took refuge behind an olive tree, while three of their relatives shouted at the settlers and tried to make them leave. The women of the family, who were picking olives about 20 meters away, alerted residents who were working in nearby plots.

At that point, about 20 more settlers arrived, some of them wearing masks and carrying wooden sticks and iron bars. The settlers continued throwing stones at the family, and one stone hit Muhammad Ziben (32) in the head. He was evacuated and given treatment. He later returned to the grove on horseback, at the sight of which the settlers became frightened and left.

After the incident, Muhammad Ziben felt dizzy and was taken to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus, where doctors found a laceration in his scalp and bleeding in his ear. He was transferred to al-Istishari Hospital in Ramallah, where he was held for observation and discharged two days later.

In a testimony he gave B'Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb'i, Muhammad's father, ‘Imad Ziben (58), a father of four and unemployed metalworker, described the attack:  

On Friday morning, 23 October 2020, at around 7:30 A.M., I went with my wife Dalal (54), our children Muhammad (32) and Musa (28), my sister Kifah (53), my brother Bashir (64) and his wife Basma (56) and their son Ahmad (34) to our plot, which is on the southern side of the village. The area is called Khallet al-Ghul. The settlement of Yitzhar was built about a kilometer away from our plot, on land belonging to our village and to neighboring villages.

We own four dunams [1 dunam = 1,000 sq. meters] of land with almost 100 olive trees, 15 almond trees and two grapevines. My grandfather, may God rest his soul, planted all of them and they're large and bear fruit.

I love my land and work it a lot. I don't need coordination to enter it. I work it all year round, including the almond and grape seasons.

I'm very attached to our land and always harvest it with my family, even though I have back problems and can't really pick the fruit. I love being there with my family and want to protect the land from settlers.

After we got there, I sat down and watched the others. At around 12:30 P.M., stones suddenly started flying at us. One of them passed right by my head. I heard my sons yelling. Settlers appeared from behind the trees on the eastern side of the grove. They snuck up on us before we noticed. There were about seven of them and they were wearing masks. They stood on a spot a bit above us, about four meters away, and threw stones at us.

I tried to hide behind a tree with my brother Bashir, who was next to me.

Our sons tried to protect us and fend off the settlers. The women of the family, who were working about 20 meters from us and hadn’t been injured, alerted people from the village who were working in a nearby plot. Meanwhile, another group of about 25 settlers arrived and surrounded us. I saw that some of them were holding wooden sticks and iron bars.

My son Muhammad was hit in the head by a stone and fell down. His brother Musa took him away, and my other sons tried to protect us by throwing stones back at the settlers. The settlers kept on throwing stones at us.

In the end, Muhammad came back riding a horse and drove the settlers out. Meanwhile, several people arrived from the village. Later Muhammad felt dizzy, so I took him to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus.

At the hospital, they X-rayed him. It turned out that he had a tear in his scalp and bleeding in his ear. They transferred him to al-Istishari Hospital in Ramallah because they thought he'd need surgery. In the end, they decided it wasn't necessary because his situation had stabilized and he felt better. He was discharged on 25 October 2020.

The settlement of Yitzhar was established about a kilometer from the Ziben family's plot.

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Iron rods placed by settlers at Shaher Hazem’s plot, which punctured his tractor tires. Qaryut, 22 Oct. 2020. Photo by Shaher Hazem
Iron rods placed by settlers at Shaher Hazem’s plot, which punctured his tractor tires. Qaryut, 22 Oct. 2020. Photo by Shaher Hazem

Qaryut, Nablus District: Settler harvests olives and cuts down five trees in the Hazem family’s plot. Police refuse to investigate the claims

On 22 October 2020, at around 8:00 A.M., Shaher (52) and Rihab (45) Hazem, parents of seven, arrived at their olive grove. Their son Ahmad (13) joined them to harvest olives on one of the last harvest days the Israeli DCO had coordinated for them. The family’s plot, which stretches over eight dunams [1 dunam = 1,000 sq. meters], lies about two kilometers west of the village homes and about 500 meters away from the settlement of Eli.

Eli was established in 1984 on land belonging to the villages of Qaryut and a-Sawiyah.

When the family arrived at the grove, Hazem drove around in his tractor and discovered that settlers had already harvested most of the trees and cut down five of them. During the drive, the tractor went over some long screws which the settlers had apparently left in the field. Three of its tires were punctured.

At that point, a settler arrived from the direction of Eli and told Hazem that he had harvested the trees and had left the family 15 trees to harvest.
 
Hazem called the village council and reported the incident. Council representatives contacted the Israel Police, and at around 12:30 P.M., officers arrived at the grove. The settler, who had been roaming around the grove while the family collected fallen olives lying around the trees, disappeared. Hazem told the officers what the settler had said, but they replied that they could not do anything without evidence and left the area.

As the officers moved away, the settler returned to the plot and implicitly threatened to burn Hazem’s tractor if he left it in the grove and went to get help to fix it. A few minutes later, the family left in the flat-tired tractor, taking with them the 12 kg of olives they had managed to collect.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, Shaher Hazem described the encounter with the settler and the indifference of the police:

I drove around the grove with my tractor to check it out. There weren’t many olives, and on some trees, there weren’t any at all, so I understood that someone must’ve harvested them. About five olive trees had been cut down. While driving, the tractor went over some sharp metal pieces, causing a flat tire. I was really worried because we were far from the village. I turned around and then the tractor went over two more metal pieces, and two more tires went flat. I was furious and didn’t know what to do. I’m sure someone put them there on purpose. There’s no way this happened by chance.

Meanwhile, a settler suddenly arrived from the direction of Eli. He was all smiles. We know him because he’s been wandering around residents’ land for years, reaching the village homes and causing problems. He wants to take over our land. When he came near, he told me in Hebrew that he’d harvested the trees and only left me 15. I got mad and asked him why he didn’t just go ahead and harvest everything. I told him I’d call the police and report the theft, the chopped up trees and the metal pieces left on the ground. He laughed and didn’t answer.

I called the village council and told them what had happened, and they said they’d call the Israel Police. I thought the police would collect a statement and punish the offender. Meanwhile, we collected what was left of the olives under the trees. We only collected about 10 to 12 kg. These are large trees that yield a lot of fruit, but the settler barely left anything. He kept wandering around the area and following me.
 
The officers arrived, and the first thing they asked was if I had any documentation or proof. I said that I didn’t and that I can only come to my land on coordinated days. The officer replied that they couldn’t do anything. I told him, “The settler himself told me that he’d harvested the trees. So how come you can’t?” The officer said that was just talk and that they couldn’t do anything without evidence. Then they left.

The settler, who disappeared when the officers arrived, came back after they left. I told him I was going to get someone to help me fix the tires, and then he asked, “You’re leaving the tractor here?” I answered that I was, and then he said, “If someone burns it, that would be bad for you!” I realized he was threatening to burn it and understood that I had no choice but to drive it with the punctured tires.

When we came back to the village, it turned out that the tractor’s rims had been damaged from driving on the punctured tires, and I need to change them, too, but I don’t have the money to do that.

A mutilated tree in Kafr Qadum, 22 Oct. 2020. Photo by Salah a-Din Shteiwi
A mutilated tree in Kafr Qadum, 22 Oct. 2020. Photo by Salah a-Din Shteiwi

Kafr Qadum, Qalqiliyah District: Settlers harvest 17 trees and steal the crop

On Thursday, 22 October 2020, village resident Salah a-Din Shteiwi (44) went to his plot, which over time has been encroached upon by the settlement of Kedumim. He discovered that settlers had harvested and stolen olives from 17 of his trees and even cut down one of the trees.

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An olive tree harvested by settlers in Kafr Qadum, 18 Oct. 2020. Photo by Qusai Qadumi
An olive tree harvested by settlers in Kafr Qadum, 18 Oct. 2020. Photo by Qusai Qadumi

Kafr Qadum, Qalqiliyah District: Settlers harvest dozens of trees and steal the fruit

On Wednesday, 21 October 2020, the Civil Administration allowed farmers from the village to access their land, which lies within the area taken over by the settlement of Kedumim.

The permit was given for three consecutive days.

That morning, Qusai Qadumi (34) went to his plot, which lies within the settlement, and discovered that settlers had harvested and stolen the olives off about 70 trees.

Qadumi owns about 17 dunams [1 dunam = 1,000 sq. meters] of land, on which he grows some 200 olive trees.

A destroyed chain link fence in a-Sawiyah, 21 Oct. 2020. Photo by village council.
A destroyed chain link fence in a-Sawiyah, 21 Oct. 2020. Photo by village council.

A-Sawiyah, Nablus District: Settlers destroy chain-link fence on resident’s land

On Wednesday morning, 21 October 2020, Ahmad Nafe’a (32) from a-Sawiyah discovered that settlers had destroyed the chain-link fence he had put up around his olive grove that week. The fence was supposed to protect the plot from incursions, after settlers damaged 30 of his olive trees on 17 September 2020.

The plot lies about a kilometer from the homes on the western edge of the village, and about a kilometer from the settlement of Nofei Nehemia. The settlement of Rehelim was established in 1991 about a kilometer from the plot.

Deir al-Hatab, Nablus District: Settlers harvest some 60 olive mature trees and allow herd to damage branches

On Wednesday morning, 21 October 2020, members of the Hussein family went to their plot, which lies on the eastern side of Deir al-Hatab, about three kilometers from the homes on the outskirts of the village. The family was shocked to discover that settlers had harvested some 60 ancient olive trees and that some of the branches had been chewed by livestock.

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A broken olive seedling in Kafr Qadum, 18 Oct. 2020. Photo by Ahmad Barham
A broken olive seedling in Kafr Qadum, 18 Oct. 2020. Photo by Ahmad Barham

Kafr Qadum, Qalqiliyah District: Settlers break five olive seedlings

On Sunday, 18 October 2020, Ahmad Barham (52), a farmer from Kafr Qadum, discovered that settlers had broken five olive seedlings in his plot, which lies northeast of the village.

The settlement of Kedumim was established in 1975 on Barham’s plot and on adjacent land.

 

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Broken branches in Bilal Badawi’s plot, in which settlers cut down 25 trees, Qaryut, 17 Oct. 2020. Photo by Bilal Badawi
Broken branches in Bilal Badawi’s plot, in which settlers cut down 25 trees, Qaryut, 17 Oct. 2020. Photo by Bilal Badawi

Qaryut, Nablus District: Settlers cut down 30 five-year-old olive trees

On Saturday morning, 17 October 2020, Bilal Badawi (45) arrived at his plot, which lies east of the village, to continue putting up a fence around his land to protect it from damage by settlers. When he got there, he was amazed to find that settlers had cut down 30 five-year-old olive trees in his grove.

The settlement of Shvut Rachel was established in 1991 about a kilometer from the plot.

Bilal Badawi, an administrator in the Palestinian Authority, gave his testimony to B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i:

I went to my plot, which is in an area called a-Sahel a-Sharqi. I own 11 dunams [1 dunam = 1,000 sq. meters] of land. On six of them, I grow olive trees that are five to seven years old.

When I got to the plot, I found that settlers had broken 30 olive trees. I had visited the land just a few days earlier, and everything was fine. I go there all the time and don’t need to coordinate with the Israeli DCO.

The land lies about a kilometer away from the settlement of Shvut Rachel. About three months ago, they stole the work tools I’d left at the plot. I notified the village council of the theft.

I inherited the land from my father and do my best to tend to it, although there’s not much water in the area. I fill up plastic buckets at home and take them to the land to water the trees. Now I’m afraid the settlers will damage the rest of the trees, because they enter village land whenever they please.

Shaker a-Tamimi at his plot after discovering settlers had harvested all of his trees, east of Hebron, 17 Oct. 2020. Photo by Manal al-Ja’bari, B’Tselem.
Shaker a-Tamimi at his plot after discovering settlers had harvested all of his trees, east of Hebron, 17 Oct. 2020. Photo by Manal al-Ja’bari, B’Tselem.

East of Hebron: Settlers harvest entire olive grove near Givat Gal outpost and steal the fruit

On 17 October 2020, Shaker a-Tamimi (70), a father of ten from the Jabal Jales neighborhood in central Hebron, went to an olive grove he and his brother own. The grove spans 20 dunams [1 dunam = 1,000 sq. meters], and the settlement outpost of Givat Gal was established right next to it. When Tamimi and his family got to the grove, they discovered that all the trees had already been harvested, and went home empty-handed.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Manal al Ja’bari on 24 October 2020, Tamimi discussed the theft of his olives:  

The settlers do as they please in our land: walk around with soldiers guarding them, put up shacks, raise livestock and even plant trees in the part that’s close to the settlement. It isn’t the first time they’ve stolen our olives. The military doesn’t allow me into the land without prior coordination, but I ignore that demand and go there whenever I want. It’s my land. I bought it about 40 years ago.

About two weeks ago, we went to the grove to check on the trees, and they had a reasonable amount of olives on them. A week later, we went back and discovered there were almost no olives left. The remaining amount wasn’t worth the work. We went home empty-handed.

We used to harvest about three tons of olives, which can yield 30 jerricans of olive oil and pickled olives. It was enough for my family and for my brothers’ families. We also gave some to friends. This year, we will have to buy olive oil and olives. 

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Turmusaya, Ramallah District: Settlers mutilate 12 young olive trees

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

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

Israeli settlers cut down 300 olive trees in the village of al-Jab'ah, Hebron District

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhsash on 15 October 2020, Khaled Masha’lah (69), a father of six from the village of al-Jab’ah in Hebron District, spoke about 300 olive trees settlers cut down in his plot:

I own 7 hectares of land east of al-Jab’ah, about a kilometer from my home. Twenty years ago, I planted olive trees there. I’ve tended to them ever since because they’re my family’s source of income. I've enjoyed the olive harvest in the last four years, and every year the yield has been better. I estimated that I’d harvest half a ton of olives this year.

Last Saturday, 10 October 2020, I went to my land to check on the trees. I was thrilled to see the fruit and planned to come back a week later to start harvesting. Three days later, on Tuesday, 13 October 2020, my wife and I were harvesting olives in another plot we own when I got a phone call informing me that my trees in Jab’ah had been damaged. I left everything, drove to my plot and met my neighbor there. I was shocked by what I saw! I can’t describe how I felt in those moments. I cried, not only over the olive trees but also over the hard work I’d invested in them for twenty years. My wife and I tended to the land from morning till night. We cared for the trees the way you care for children.

I called the Israel Police and told them that 300 olive trees, six of them 100 years old and the rest 20 years old, had been cut down. The next day, police officers came to the plot and photographed what was left of the trees. Then an officer from the Israeli DCO spoke to me on the phone. I think the vandals were settlers from Bat Ayin. I assume they came at night, because the day before, my neighbor was grazing his flock in the area and told me the trees were fine.

I don’t know what I’m going to do now. Twenty years ago, I had more strength. I would walk a kilometer carrying water for irrigation and tools by hand. It was tough, but I did everything I could to get to the land and take care of the trees. Now I’m older and can’t do things like that anymore.

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Firyal Abu Haikal. Tel Rumeidah, 13 Oct. 2020. Photo by Manal al-Ja’bari, B’Tselem.
Firyal Abu Haikal. Tel Rumeidah, 13 Oct. 2020. Photo by Manal al-Ja’bari, B’Tselem.

Tel Rumeidah, Hebron: Settlers harvest most of the Abu Haikal family's olive trees

Firyal and 'Abd al-‘Aziz Abu Haikal (both 74) have 11 children and live in the Tel Rumeidah neighborhood in central Hebron. The couple owns an olive grove with 50 trees spanning five dunams [1 dunam = 1,000 sq. meters] – right by the fence that surrounds their home. The settlement of Admot Yishai was established opposite their home, as was the Mash'had al-Arb'in Checkpoint (Jabal al-Rahmeh). There are several military posts and security cameras in the area.

Although the grove lies right by the family's home, they cannot reach it without prior coordination with the military due to attacks by settlers. This year, they were permitted to enter their land to harvest olives from 13 to 15 October. A month earlier, on 16 September, Firyal Abu Haikal went to the grove with Hebron municipality workers, who usually help her with the harvest, and took photographs of the fruit-laden trees.  

On 13 October 2020, Abu Haikal went to the plot with her daughter Samah (47) and seven municipality workers. In a testimony she gave B'Tselem field researcher Manal al Ja'bari on 21 October 2020, she described what she saw:

Samah and I got to the plot around 9:00 A.M. Seven municipality workers got there ahead of us, around 8:00. When I arrived, I saw soldiers and Israeli DCO officials arguing with them. I gathered from the workers that they were not letting them in to harvest the olives. After a while, the soldiers let us in, and then we found that most of the trees no longer had any olives on them. The settlers had already harvested them. It's clear it was them, because no one else goes in there, and there are a checkpoint and cameras in the area. We picked what was left and went home.

On 15 October 2020, I went to the police station at Kiryat Arba to file a complaint. I waited four hours until they let me in to the station. No one spoke Arabic, so I spoke in English and filed a complaint. I don't believe they'll do anything, because it's not the first time settlers have stolen our olives. They always attack us and our relatives who live in the area. We file complaints, but nothing happens.

We used to extract about seven jerricans of olive oil from the grove and pickle about 40 kilos of olives. This year, what we have left may just be enough for half a jerrican of oil and about 10 kilos of olives.

Khalil ‘Amirah (73) injured in the head by stones thrown by settlers, Ni’lin, 13 Oct. 2020. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B’Tselem
Khalil ‘Amirah (73) injured in the head by stones thrown by settlers, Ni’lin, 13 Oct. 2020. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B’Tselem

Ni'lin, Ramallah District: Settlers attack family harvesting their own olives and injure elderly man

The 'Amirah family live in the village of Ni'lin in Ramallah District. They own several hundred dunams [1 dunam = 1,000 square meters] of olive groves, which lie on the other side of the Separation Barrier built near their village. Since the barrier was built, the military has permitted the family to visit their land only twice a year, for a several days at a time.

This harvest season, the military allotted the family 10 workdays on their land. On the morning of 13 October 2020, several family members went with about 20 villagers to pick their olives. At around midday, they noticed several settlers there and Khalil' Amirah (73) asked them to leave. After a short argument, the settlers left. Soldiers who were present did not intervene.

In the late afternoon, one of the soldiers ordered the family to wrap up work for the day. The soldiers left the area and the family began gathering their things and the olives they had managed to pick. Then, several masked settlers arrived and started chasing them and throwing stones at them. Khalil' Amirah was hit in the head by a stone and later taken to hospital, where the doctors found he had a skull fracture and cerebral hemorrhage.

On 19 November 2020, the Central District Attorney's Office filed an indictment against three settlers for the assault. 

עץ שנמסק על ידי מתנחלים ופריו נגנב. פרעתא, 13.10.20. צילום:
עץ שנמסק על ידי מתנחלים ופריו נגנב. פרעתא, 13.10.20. צילום:

Far’ata, Qalqiliyah District: Farmers who came to harvest olives discovered settlers had harvested their trees and stolen the crop

On Tuesday morning, 13 October 2020, Ibrahim Salah and ‘Abdallah Salman arrived at their plots of land, which lie northeast of Far’ata, after receiving permission from the Israeli DCO to access the land for three days in a row. The last time the DCO allowed them to reach their land was last April, during the plowing season.  

Upon arrival, the two farmers discovered that settlers had already harvested about 25 olive trees, broken their branches and fled with the crop. Last year, settlers also stole olives from Salah’s grove; this year, settlers attacked Salman during the plowing season.

The settlement outpost of Havat Gilad was established in 2002 on land belonging to Far’ata and other area villages, about 100 meters from the two farmers’ plots.

B’Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi collected the testimonies of the two men on 14 October 2020. In his testimony, Ibrahim Salah (67), a father of seven from Far’ata, described the settlers’ gradual takeover of his land, the theft of his crop and the damage done to his grove:

My plot, which covers 18 dunams [1 dunam = 1,000 sq. meters], has 220 olive trees on it. The outpost of Havat Gilad was built on land belonging to me and to other farmers. Since then, I’ve had to coordinate with the Israeli DCO in order to go to my land and pick the olives.

Early this October, I contacted the Civil Administration directly because the Palestinian DCO isn’t working right now. It took a while, and finally an Israeli DCO officer told me that farmers could go to their land for three days starting Tuesday, 13 October 2020, from 8:00 A.M. to 3:30 P.M.

On 13 October, we arrived at a gate the military installed on the way to our land. Israeli soldiers, DCO officers and Havat Gilad’s security coordinator were waiting for us there. Each of us went to his land. Some plots are right next to the settlers’ homes, some are further away, and mine is right inside the outpost. The settlers built their homes on parts of it.

When we reached the land, we started checking on the trees, because I hadn’t been there since April. I was shocked to discover that settlers had already harvested 22 of the trees and broken their branches.

I immediately notified the DCO officer who was escorting us. He took photos of the harvested trees and their broken branches, and so did my son. There was nothing else to be done, so we harvested the rest of the trees until 3:30 P.M. When we got there the next day, we found that three more trees had been harvested and their branches broken. I called the DCO officer again to let him know, but he didn’t lift a finger. We finished harvesting early, around 1:30 P.M., because there weren’t many olives left. But we had to stay on the land until the other farmers were done at 3:30 P.M., and then wait for the military to give us back the IDs they’d taken from us when we arrived in the morning.

Tomorrow I’ll go again, to make use of the last coordinated day. I’ll plow the land, because I won’t be allowed to reach it again until April.

I run into these problems every year. Last harvest season, settlers stole most of my olives and cut down my trees.

In his testimony, ‘Abdallah Salman (56), a father of six from Far’ata, related:

I inherited 42 dunams of olive groves from my father. The outpost of Havat Gilad was built right next to them. I only get to the land twice a year, during the harvest and plowing seasons, and only after I coordinate it with the Israeli DCO.

On 13 October 2020, I went with my wife and three of our children to the gate that leads to our land, east of the village. Other farmers were already there. We handed our IDs over and went through.

One of our groves is right next to the settlers’ homes. We decided to start harvesting there because soldiers were there, and we hoped they’d protect us from a possible attack. We were shocked to find that almost 30 trees had already been harvested. We also found broken branches and iron rods lying under them.  

I immediately called the DCO officer who was there to come over. He came and saw the trees the olives were stolen from, their broken branches and the marks left there. He filmed everything on his phone. We kept working until the end of the day and managed to finish harvesting the trees near the settlers’ homes.

Settlers stealing olives and vandalizing trees is nothing new, and their violence doesn’t end there. Last April, they physically assaulted me while I was plowing the land. 

Settlers harvested olives on Fawzi Muhammad’s plot. Jalud, 13 Oct. 2020. Photo by a witness to the incident.
Settlers harvested olives on Fawzi Muhammad’s plot. Jalud, 13 Oct. 2020. Photo by a witness to the incident.

Jalud, Nablus District: Settlers harvest olive trees belonging to village resident and steal the fruit

On Tuesday morning, 13 October 2020, a shepherd noticed settlers harvesting olives on land belonging to resident Fawzi Muhammad in the southern part of the village. When the settlers saw the shepherd, they fled, taking the olives with them. The shepherd notified the landowner and reported the incident to the village council.

Later that day, a lawyer contacted the Israeli DCO on Fawzi’s behalf. Several hours later, a DCO representative updated him that the stolen olives had been located and that he was welcome to pick them up from the settlement of Beit El. Fawzi drove to Beit El the next day and retrieved the stolen loot: 20 kilos of olives.

The settlement outpost of Ahiya was established in 1998 about 300 meters from the plot.

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A settler harvesting olives at the Kurdi family’s grove, Burin, 12 Oct. 2020. Photo by a witness to the incident
A settler harvesting olives at the Kurdi family’s grove, Burin, 12 Oct. 2020. Photo by a witness to the incident

Burin, Nablus District: Settler harvests olive trees belonging to village resident and steals the fruit

Yihya Kurdi (46), a father of three, grew up in Burin and lives in Qalqiliyah. His family owns two plots of land in Burin, one of them adjacent to his childhood home on the eastern side of the village. After the second intifada began and the Huwarah Checkpoint was installed about a kilometer away, the family decided to sell the house and move to Qalqiliyah, but kept the plot.
There are about 45 olive trees in the plot, which consists of four dunams [1 dunam = 1,000 square meters]. The family's second plot has 50 olive trees and consists of two dunams, about 100 meters south of the first plot.

On 12 October 2020, a village resident noticed a settler harvesting olives in one of the plots and sent Yihya Kurdi a photo documenting him.

As the settlement of Har Bracha and the outpost of Sneh Yaakov (Givat Ronen) were established nearby, the military forbids the family to enter their land without prior coordination. This year, the military allowed them a single day for harvesting, on 25 October 2020. When they got to the first plot, they discovered settlers had already harvested 30 of the 45 trees. The remaining 15 yielded about 30 kilos of olives. They also found that settlers had set up a fence around the second plot to block their access to it.   

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, Yihya Kurdi recounted:

At around 9:00 A.M., I arrived at my plot with my two sons, Yazan (16) and Muhammad (13), and saw eight soldiers there. One of them asked me, in good Arabic, if I had the deed for the land. I answered that I didn't have the papers, but that my brothers and I own the land. He said the land belongs to a friend of his from Givat Ronen. After I told him that wasn’t true, he pointed to the northern part of the plot and said we weren't allowed to go beyond the road.

We have 45 olive trees on that land, as well as two houses the family has owned since the 1970s – long before the settlements were built. In the second plot, south of there, we have 50 olive trees. I was surprised to find that settlers put up a barbed wire fence around it.

The soldiers said we weren't allowed into the second plot or into part of the first plot, so we could only harvest 15 trees, five or six of which barely had olives on them.

We worked until 3:00 P.M. and picked about 30 kilos of olives, which are enough for about 10 liters of oil. I photographed the trees with the broken branches and we went home. Before the second intifada broke out, we would extract about 20 jerricans of oil from the two plots (more than 200 kilos of olives). Now we're supposed to get even more, because the older the trees, the more fruit they bear.

A fire that broke out in the olive groves following use of crowd control weapons, Burqah, 12 Oct. 2020. Photo by village council
A fire that broke out in the olive groves following use of crowd control weapons, Burqah, 12 Oct. 2020. Photo by village council

Burqah, Ramallah District: Settlers repeatedly attack harvesters in olive groves; military promises protection yet uses crowd control measures to disperse the victims

On Monday morning, 12 October 2020, about 50 residents of Burqah, a village in Ramallah District, set out to harvest olives in groves belonging to some of them about a kilometer north of the village’s homes.

The farmers of Burqah and of Beitin, a neighboring village to the north, have had difficulty accessing their land since 2001, when settlers established the outpost of Givat Assaf on land between the two villages that belongs to Beitin. Since then, the settlers have consistently tried to take over olive groves from village residents and have attacked farmers who dare enter their own land. The settlers put up a hut and a trailer on the farmers' land south of the outpost in 2015, and man them most of the time.

This harvest season, the farmers enlisted the help of village residents and other volunteers to pick their olives due to the settlers' aggression.

In a testimony he gave B'Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad on 20 October 2020, 'Adnan Barakat (57), head of the Burqah village council, described the impossible situation that the settlers' violent presence creates:

Ahead of this season, I coordinated the harvest in the area of Ras al-‘Aqaba, north of Burqah, with the Palestinian Authority and with the village of Beitin, whose residents also own land there. The idea was to enlist volunteers to help the harvesters and protect them. We have to do that because the settlers set up huts on this private Palestinian land and have been living illegally on it for years. The Israeli Police evicted them several times, but they always come back. They attack farmers and damage their crops without answering for it. 

The settlers' presence is dangerous for the farmers and stops them from going to their land. The farmers have filed many complaints with the Israel Police, the military, human rights organizations and the Red Cross, all to no avail. People have no choice but to insist on going to their land, no matter what. 

The Civil Administration doesn't require the residents to coordinate their arrival, nor do they want to. It’s their private land and no one has the right to tell them when to go there. 

We agreed to gather on Monday, 12 October 2020, at 08:00 A.M., by the big mosque near the land. About 40 to 50 farmers and relatives came – men, women, children and elderly people.

When the farmers reached to the groves, they encountered about 15 settlers carrying clubs. The settlers began throwing stones at the farmers. The latter threw stones back in self-defense and called other residents for backup. Three residents were injured lightly by stones and the windshields of three cars were shattered. About half an hour later, soldiers arrived and instead of protecting the landowners, hurled stun grenades and fired tear gas canisters and rubber-coated metal bullets at them. At around 10:00 A.M., an officer arrived and ordered the residents to go home. He promised that the military would protect them and allow them to harvest their olives in the following days.

In his testimony, 'Adnan Barakat went on to describe the clashes that broke out between the settlers, the soldiers and the farmers:

We set out at around 8:00 A.M. to the land, about half a kilometer away. Midway, near a place called Bir Rabhi, we saw about 15 settlers carrying clubs and stones. The residents didn't want to confront them. There were women and children there, and they just wanted to pick their olives. The settlers had placed rocks on the road to block our access to the land. The residents removed them, and then the settlers started pushing people and throwing stones at them. Things escalated quickly, and the residents started throwing stones back at the settlers to keep them away. The settlers kept on throwing stones, and two or three farmers were injured in the legs. The women and children were terrified and people were shouting. The settlers managed to get to the cars of several residents and smashed windows and windshields in three of them with clubs and stones.

After 30 to 40 minutes of this, about eight soldiers who are usually stationed near the Givat Assaf outpost arrived. They came to protect the settlers. Around the same time, about 20 young Palestinians arrived along with Walid Assaf, head of the National Commission against the Annexation Wall and Colonies, and Laila Ghannam, the governor of Ramallah District. After the backup arrived, the young guys managed to keep the settlers at bay. But then the soldiers stopped the guys by firing stun grenades, tear gas canisters and sometimes "rubber" bullets to disperse them. The clashes with the military continued, while the settlers went back to their huts and watched from there.

At around 10:00 A.M., a senior military officer arrived and said he was the area commander. He asked me to tell the farmers to go home and said that he'd arrange for a force large enough to protect them the next day. We accepted his offer, and the farmers went home without reaching their groves.

The next morning, a group of five farmers, five volunteers and Israeli Channel 12 reporter Ohad Hemo went to the groves. Dozens of settlers were lying in wait and attacked them with clubs and stones. In the ensuing confrontation, which included stone-throwing and shoving, farmer Jamal Mu'tan (47) and volunteer Muhammad al-Khatib (48) sustained head injuries. Journalist Ohad Hemo was also lightly injured. Mu’tan was rushed in a Red Crescent ambulance to hospital in Ramallah, where he was given first aid and discharged.

About an hour later, at around 9:00 A.M., several farmers gathered at the village center and marched towards the land whose owners were attacked. Dozens of settlers who had remained there threw stones at them, while about 10 soldiers watched from a nearby hilltop without intervening. About half an hour later, dozens more residents came to the farmers’ aid, and then the settlers drew back towards the hut and the trailer they set up on the land. At that point, the soldiers started firing tear gas canisters and rubber-coated metal bullets at the farmers in order to protect the settlers.

Around midday, a military officer arrived and demanded the residents go home and give up again. He promised the military would protect them and allow them to harvest their olives another day.

In his testimony, Barakat described his negotiation with the officer:

An officer I didn't know arrived. I don't know what his rank was. He intervened like the previous time and asked me to send everyone home. He promised he'd arrange for them to harvest the following Friday and Saturday, and that he'd make sure there was enough security. I told him it's our right to go to our land whenever we want and that we don't need coordination. I also said they’d already promised us protection and hadn’t followed through. After a long argument, we agreed to leave so that no one else would get hurt. We went home and decided that, as the officer requested, we’d only go to the groves again on Friday.

Three days later, on Friday morning, 16 October 2020, the military blocked all the entrances to the village to prevent volunteers and other supporters from helping with the harvest. That morning, more than 100 farmers and other villagers went to the groves to harvest the olives.

Dozens of soldiers spread out along the slopes of the hill, while dozens of settlers gathered near the hut and the trailer in the groves. When the harvesters were about 200 meters from the groves, the soldiers opened massive fire at them with tear gas canisters, and many fled towards the village. After the shooting, clashes broke out in several areas around the village. Residents threw stones at the security forces and the latter hurled stun grenades and fired tear gas canisters, rubber-coated metal bullets and live bullets at them. In the clashes, which lasted about two hours, several residents were injured by rubber-coated metal bullets or gas inhalation and treated on the spot. Munitions fired by the soldiers started several fires in the groves. Soldiers allowed some residents to try and put out the flames themselves, even as other soldiers continued to shoot tear gas canisters and hurl stun grenades. A Palestinian fire truck arrived but could not reach the fires due to the clashes, and about 10 mature olive trees burned down.

At around 1:00 P.M., after a brief hiatus in the clashes, during which residents attended noon prayers, some of them tried to go back to the land to pick the olives. The soldiers once again fired tear gas canisters and stun grenades at them. Clashes erupted again, with young village residents throwing stones at the soldiers. Several farmers were lightly injured by “rubber” bullets and dozens from the tear gas. They were all treated in the field. At 2:00 P.M., more troops arrived and rained tear gas canisters down on the residents, forcing them to flee the area. The settlers stood on a nearby hilltop and watched throughout the incident.

That evening, the following evening and on Sunday, 18 October 2020, a Burqah resident who lives near the groves saw settlers who live in the trailer torch trees in the groves. As the landowners are afraid of going there, the extent of the damage is unknown.

On Tuesday afternoon, 20 October 2020, B'Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad and a Red Cross representative visited the village. They went to the groves to inspect the damage but when they were about 150 meters from the trailer, the settlers noticed them. Four masked settlers started running towards them and they were forced to flee.

In a testimony he gave B'Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad on 20 October 2020, Burqah resident N.M. spoke about the torched trees:

I live on the northern outskirts of Burqah. The olive groves are about 500 meters north of my home, midway between my house and the settlers' trailers. For years they’ve been attacking us in the groves and inside the village, including torching the mosque. I filed a lot of complaints about it, but finally gave up. I don't even try to go to my land any more. That's why I didn't join the residents on any of the days they tried to reach their land for the harvest. On 16 October 2020, I decided to take my flock to graze far away from there, to avoid the settlers’ attacks and the soldiers' tear gas that could harm the sheep.

After 2:00 P.M. I was told that things had calmed down, so I went home with the flock. Around sunset, I suddenly saw a fire raging in the groves. There were tall flames, about four meters high, rising above one of the trees. I kept watching what was happening, and I saw several settlers setting fire to trees here and there in the grove. I couldn't figure out whose plot it was, but a lot of trees burned down in a fairly large area and I'm afraid some of it was my land.

The next evening and on Sunday, I saw settlers torching trees again. It was in a pretty large area, so it's hard to estimate how many trees burned down – anywhere between 20 and several dozen. Since the clashes started no one has dared go there, so no one has checked. I'm afraid to go there myself, with the way settlers suddenly appear from behind trees. I can’t describe what it’s like. All we have left is to trust in God.

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Soldiers come to ‘Amer Abu Hejleh’s land and arrest him after false complaint filed by settler. Deir Istiya, 11 Nov. 2020.  Photo courtesy of witness.
Soldiers come to ‘Amer Abu Hejleh’s land and arrest him after false complaint filed by settler. Deir Istiya, 11 Nov. 2020. Photo courtesy of witness.

Deir Istiya, Salfit District: Police arrest Palestinian after settlers file false complaint against him in order to take over his land. During the arrest, settlers and soldiers try to prevent olive harvesting on the land.

On Saturday morning, 10 October 2020, ‘Amer Abu Hejleh (56), a resident of Deir Istiya in Salfit District, went to his plot. Several members of his family and Palestinian and Israeli human rights activists came along to help him seal a swimming pool settlers that had dug on his property during the lockdown imposed by the Palestinian Authority last April. In September, after Abu Hejleh filed a complaint, the Civil Administration drained the pool and confiscated benches the settlers set up next to it.

Back to that Saturday: A few minutes after the group reached the land, several settlers arrived, escorted by the security coordinator from the settlement of Yakir and three soldiers riding in his car. The settlers tried to drive Abu Hejleh and his friends out, and an argument ensued. A police car arrived and the officers checked the IDs of those present. They then arrested Abu Hejleh,on the grounds that settlers had filed a complaint against him in May. When an Israeli activist tried to intervene and prevent the arrest, the officers arrested him, too. He was released a few hours later, but Abu Hejleh was interrogated at the police station in Ariel and transferred to Ofer Prison. He was held at Ofer for three days and released without charges, after paying a 3,000 shekel (~890 USD) fine.

On 11 October 2020, while Abu Hejleh was in custody, some 30 Palestinian volunteers went to his land to help the family harvest their olive trees. At around 11:00 A.M, about 10 settlers showed up, escorted by three soldiers. They tried to drive the volunteers out, claiming that they hadn’t coordinated the harvest with the DCO. Only after an hour and a half did the soldiers and settlers leave, and the harvesters continued their work. 

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