Masafer Yatta: Settlers violently invaded Palestinian communities, allegedly looking for stolen sheep. They threatened and assaulted two residents and left with the sheep
For three days, settlers from the outpost of Mitzpe Yair repeatedly invaded five Palestinian communities in Masafer Yatta. The five marauding settlers, who are known to the communities, entered their homes and livestock pens to allegedly search for stolen sheep. The settlers shouted at the residents and threatened them. In two cases, they physically assaulted them, breaking one resident’s tooth. On the third day, the settlers claimed to have found the stolen sheep in a livestock pen in one of the communities. The Israeli police allowed the settlers to take about 10 sheep.
The settlers’ domineering behavior continued the next day, when one of them went to the She’b al-Batem area and drove out a farmer who was grazing his flock.
The evening of 17 December 2020: Settlers invade the community of Khirbet Bir al-‘Eid
Five settlers came to the community and claimed to be looking for stolen sheep. They placed boulders on the road leading to the community’s homes and blocked the residents’ way. When one resident tried to drive through with a tractor, one settler pulled out a gun and threatened him. The driver had no choice but to turn back and take another route.
18 December 2020, 1:30 A.M.: Settlers invade the community of She’b al-Batem, wake residents, threaten them and kick one
The next morning, five settlers came to the community of She’b al-Batem. A settler known to the residents as "Yosef" and another settler approached the home of 'Ali Jibrin (64), a father of 11. When Jibrin heard them and opened the door, "Yosef" began shouting at him, kicking his legs, and threatening to “make trouble for him” if he didn't divulge the sheep's whereabouts. Jibrin tried to explain that he didn't know where the sheep were, but the settler continued shouting and pushed Jibrin’s young children, who had woken up from the commotion and come to their father. At that point, Jibrin’s brother, who lives next door, reported the incident to the police. The settlers stayed near the family’s doorstep for about 20 minutes and then moved on to the home of his brother, Ismail Jibrin (53), a father of six. They shouted at him and threatened him, and left about 10 minutes later.
In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhsash, ‘Ali Jibrin described how the settler known as “Yosef” threatened and assaulted him:
At around 1:30 A.M., I woke up to loud sounds of people near the entrance of our home. I went over to the door and saw two people. That night we didn’t have electricity, but one of the settlers had a flashlight, and I recognized him: he grazes his flock in the area, and his name is “Yosef.”
Suddenly, without us even talking, the settler kicked me very hard in the left leg and yelled at me in Arabic, “Where are my sheep?” I asked him which sheep he meant, and he said, “You stole my sheep!” I asked him if he’d seen me stealing them, and he said no, but that he wanted to know who had stolen his sheep.
At that moment, my four children, the eldest of whom is 16, woke up and came over to me. The settler shoved them and yelled at them to stay back. Even though he’d attacked my children and me, I tried to stay calm and not confront them, because then I would’ve been arrested. I asked my eldest son Amin (15) to run to my brother Ismail’s house and ask him to call the Israeli police. “Yosef” said he’d go to Ismail’s house himself.
In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhsash, Ismail Jibrin recalled how the settlers also came to his house, entered it by force and threatened him:
I was woken by shouting from my brother ‘Ali’s house. Someone was shouting that he was crazy and wanted to make trouble. I recognized that it was the voice of a settler named “Yosef” who grazes his flock in the area. Everyone knows him around here. I called the Israeli police and told them what was happening, and they promised to come quickly.
I waited about 20 minutes. I didn’t know what the settler wanted from ‘Ali. In the end, I saw him leave ‘Ali’s home and come towards my house with another young settler. Both of them came into my home. I tried to stop them, but they pushed me and went inside anyway.
My whole family woke up, and the kids were scared. That night we didn’t have electricity. We use solar planes to generate electricity.
“Yosef” came up me and yelled that he was crazy and had come to make trouble, and that he wanted to know who’d stolen his sheep. I tried to calm him down, but he pushed me a few times and kept yelling at me. They left about 10 minutes later.
18 December 2020, 4:30 A.M.: Settlers invade the community of Khirbet al-Markez, assault resident, drag him to their car and question him
A few hours later, at around 4:30 A.M., five settlers drove up in three vehicles to the Hushiyeh family home in the community of Khirbet al-Markez. Samira Hushiyeh (66) got up for dawn prayers and when she heard the settlers, she woke her son ‘Omar Hushiyeh (37), a father of three. When he opened the front door, one of the settlers punched him in the face, and another hit him in the arm with a gun butt. Two settlers dragged ‘Omar out of the house and knocked him to the ground. His mother Samira, his wife Najah (28) and their three children began crying and tried to leave the house to help ‘Omar, but the settlers who had stayed behind closed the door forcefully and blocked it.
The settlers dragged ‘Omar to one of their vehicles and questioned him about the sheep that they claimed had been stolen from them. About an hour later, the settlers released him and moved several meters away from the house, and the family managed to get out. ‘Omar’s lips were bleeding and one of his teeth was broken. The settlers stayed in the area and observed the community until the late morning hours.
In a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhsash, Samira Hushiyeh, a married mother of 13, spoke about the settlers’ invasion:
I woke up at 4:30 A.M. to prepare for dawn prayers, and heard noises and the sounds of car engine near my home. At first, I thought it was the cars of laborers going to work or military vehicles. I woke my son ‘Omar and his wife, who were sleeping in the next room, and told them what I’d heard. ‘Omar told me not to turn the lights on and tried to calm me down.
I looked out the window and saw five people going to the sheep’s pen. They had flashlights and the headlights of their cars were also on. I understood they were settlers by their white clothes. I turned on the lights so they’d understand there were people home. I was afraid they’d hurt our sheep.
In a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash, Samira’s daughter-in-law, Najah Hushiyeh (28), a mother of three, described the settlers’ invasion and the attack on her husband:
My mother-in-law woke us up and turned the lights on a few minutes later. Then, I heard people at the door and someone asking in Arabic, “Where’s the master of the house?” ‘Omar got up and went to the door, and I followed. I realized they were settlers by their clothes. I was terrified and stood behind my mother-in-law.
When ‘Omar opened the door, one of them punched him in the face, and the other hit him in the elbow with a gun butt and pulled him out of the house. He stopped us from going after ‘Omar and closed the door. I was shaking and screaming, and our three children woke up and started crying, too. My mother-in-law tried to open the door, but one of the settlers was holding it from the other side and wouldn’t let her open it. She yelled, “Where’s ‘Omar?” My mother-in-law, my children and I stayed trapped in the house for about an hour.
In her testimony, Samira Hushiyeh further recounted:
About an hour later, I managed to leave the house. I couldn’t see ‘Omar and was afraid they’d done something to him. I asked one of the settlers who was standing next to the cars what they’d done to my son, and he answered in Arabic that he’d be back soon. I calmed down a little. I was standing behind the house when suddenly, I saw ‘Omar get out of one of the cars. His lips were bleeding. I went back inside with him and saw that one of his teeth was broken from the punch he got earlier. I understood from ‘Omar that after they forced him out of the house, they dragged him to their car and questioned him about sheep stolen from Mitzpe Yair. He told them he had nothing to do with it and knew nothing about it.
18 December 2020, 9:30 A.M.: Settlers invade the community of Khirbet al Fakhit and roam among livestock pens
At around 9:30 A.M., the settlers moved on to the community of Khirbet al Fakhit, where they entered livestock pens and roamed them for about half an hour until leaving empty-handed.
19 December 2020, afternoon: Settlers invade the community of Khirbet a-Safai al-Foqa, where they allegedly locate the stolen sheep
The next afternoon, about 50 settlers, some armed with rifles and others leading attack dogs, came to the community of Khirbet a-Safai al-Foqa. They entered the community’s livestock pens and searched for the sheep they alleged had been stolen from them. An argument developed between the settlers and the residents, including mutual shoving. About an hour later, dozens of soldiers and Border Police officers, a police car and Civil Administration personnel arrived. The settlers told the police they had found their sheep in one of the community’s pens, and the officers allowed them to take the sheep. Then everyone left.
A few days later, the resident in whose pen the sheep were allegedly found was summoned to by the police, interrogated and released without charges.
20 December 2020, 10:30 A.M.: Settlers attack a shepherd in the She’b al-Batem area
The day after the settlers invaded Khirbet a-Safai al-Foqa, ‘Issa Jibrin (44), a father of seven, was out grazing his flock about a kilometer from his home in the community of She’b al-Batem. At around 10:30 A.M., the settler known as “Yosef” from Mitzpe Yair arrived and started hitting the sheep and scattering them with a stick. The sheep scattered in alarm. When Jibrin tried to stand in front of the settler to prevent him from attacking the flock, the settler pushed him and then called for back-up. About 20 minutes later, two more settlers appeared and also started to drive Jibrin’s flock out. Jibrin moved away with his sheep and returned home.
In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhsash, ‘Issa Jibrin related:
When the settler called “Yosef” started hitting my sheep, I stood in front of him to stop him from hurting them. He came up to me and pushed me, and then phoned somebody, probably to call for back-up. I didn’t want to confront them and preferred to just leave. I walked away with the flock and left the three settlers there. I saw them talking and pointing at me, and I was afraid they’d follow me and attack me, so I walked quickly until I got home.
I usually stay in the pastureland with the flock until the afternoon, but that day I was back by 11:00 A.M.
Everyone in Masafer Yatta knows this settler, “Yosef”, because he often grazes his flock near our homes and bothers us. The Israeli police officers know him, too.