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Maghayir al-‘Abid, Masafer Yatta: Palestinian shepherd held for four days on false allegations after settlers, escorted by soldiers, try to drive him out of pastureland

On 9 June 2021, while Musleh Makhamreh (24) was out grazing his flock a few hundred meters west of the community, several settlers arrived with a military escort and ordered him to leave. Makhamreh refused and called the police, but the officers who came to the scene arrested him on the grounds that he had threatened to kill the settlers. He asked the officers to watch footage he had filmed on his phone during the incident. They refused to do so or to allow him to call his father so he could gather the flock, which was left alone in the field.  

Makhamreh was taken to the Kiryat Arba police station, interrogated, and then transferred to Ofer Prison. That evening, at around 7:00 P.M., his father arrived at the station to file a complaint against the settlers who had harassed his son, but the officers refused to register the complaint. After waiting until 10:00 P.M, he had no choice but to return home.   

In a court hearing the next day, the judge accepted the police’s claim that they were not done investigating Makhamreh and extended his detention, although the officers admitted they had not watched the footage filmed by Makhamreh, which proves his innocence. Makhamreh was released on 13 June 2021 after an Israeli activist signed his NIS 20,000 bail and after he undertook to appear for further proceedings if summoned.  

About two weeks earlier, settlers stoned another shepherd from the community. The settlement outpost of Havat Ma’on was established about 1.5 kilometers from the site of the attack. 

Khirbet Susiya, South Hebron Hills: Settlers stone shepherds twice in two days

On 28 June 2021, settlers set out from the settlement of Susiya and hurled stones at a number of Palestinians grazing their flocks about 500 meters south of the village of Susiya. The shepherds were forced to move away from the area.

Two days later, on 30 June 2021, several masked settlers again came to the area and hurled stones at shepherds from the village. After about 20 minutes, soldiers came to the scene and drove the settlers away.

The military expelled the residents of Khirbet Susiya from their village in 1986 and they relocated to their farmland. Since then, the military and settlers have trying to drive them out of there, too.

An agricultural plot owned by a Beit Furik resident that was torched by the settlers. Photo courtesy of the witness
An agricultural plot owned by a Beit Furik resident that was torched by the settlers. Photo courtesy of the witness

Settlers violently attack farmers from Khirbet Tana and Beit Furik in Nablus District and threaten them

On 14 June 2021, a fire broke out on pastureland that lies on a ridge south of Beit Furik and Khirbet Tana. The settlement of Itamar was established on the ridge in 1984 on land belonging to Palestinian villages, and later joined by several outposts. The following day, settlers attacked Palestinian farmers, accused them of setting the fire, threatened them and damaged their property. State-backed settler violence has become a routine part of the occupation, leading to the increasing dispossession of Palestinians throughout the West Bank.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The settler and his dogs. Photo courtesy of community residents
The settler and his dogs. Photo courtesy of community residents

Wadi a-Siq, Ramallah District: Settler sets dogs on sheep grazing on community land and threatens shepherds at gunpoint

On 15 April 2021, at around 10:00 A.M., a settler arrived with a gun and two dogs at farmland that lies about a kilometer northwest of the community of Wadi a-Siq and about four kilometers east of Deir Dobwan, in Ramallah District. The settler set his dogs on the flocks of three shepherds from Wadi a-Siq grazing on the land, about 300 meters from the Alon Road. To defend themselves, the shepherds released their own dogs and started throwing stones at the settlers’ dogs to keep them away from the sheep. At one point, the settler went over to one of the farmers and slapped him several times. 

The settler pointed his gun at the shepherds and threatened to shoot them if they did not leave the area. He then headed towards a jeep that was parked by the Alon Road, where two other settlers were waiting for him. 

After the settler left the area, the shepherds examined their flocks and found one sheep dead. After gathering the flocks and returning home, they discovered that six of the ewes had miscarried. 

The settlement of Rimonim was established in 1980 about three kilometers from the site of the attack. Several outposts have been established around it over the years, and their residents graze sheep and cattle in the fields of local Bedouin communities and destroy their crops. 

In the past year, B’Tselem has documented several such attacks around the outposts, in addition to daily harassment of shepherds in an attempt to drive them and their flocks off the land. On 7 April 2021, Rabbi Arik Ascherman documented settlers who were grazing sheep and cattle on cultivated Palestinian fields as they attacked him with clubs. On 12 March 2021, settlers tried to tow away residential shacks belonging to area residents. On 14 April 2020, settlers harassed three Bedouin brothers who were grazing sheep in the area and filed false complaints against them, following which the military detained them for five days.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad on 17 April 2021, Bashar Ka’abneh (18) from the community of Wadi a-Siq recounted what happened that day: 

Two days ago, in the morning, I was grazing my flock on a hill about half a kilometer away from two other shepherds from the community. I was standing there with my cousin when suddenly, I saw a settler with two dogs that were attacking the sheep. I immediately called one of the shepherds and warned him.  

My cousin and I quickly went down the hill towards the shepherds. I saw one of them trying to chase the dogs away with stones. The sheep started running, and I saw the settler attack one of the shepherds, who’s deaf, and slap him.  

When we reached the shepherds, my dogs and my uncle’s dogs surrounded the settler’s dogs. We tried to drive his dogs out with stones, but the settler pointed his gun at us and shouted, “Leave, leave or I’ll shoot you.” Then he pulled his dogs away, and they drew back towards a white jeep with two more settlers that were waiting for them by the road.  

Then we started moving away with the flock, because we were afraid the settlers would come back and attack us. Meanwhile, we saw the settler stop a police car that was passing by. We don’t know if he filed a complaint against us. We’re used to them attacking us and then filing false complaints against us. The police always believe the settlers’ version, and that’s why we preferred to stay away. The police car tried to reach us but got stuck on the dirt roads and then turned around and drove off.  

Because of the attack, my uncle’s sheep died and three ewes in our flock and three others in my neighbor’s flock miscarried. We pray to God there won’t be any more attacks or damage.

Khirbet Zanutah, south of Hebron: Settlers push Palestinian farmer escorted by Israeli activists and drive his flock out with kicks

On the morning of 17 April 2021, brothers Amin (34) and Bassem (42) al-Khdeirat were out grazing their flock, accompanied by Israeli activists, about 300 meters away from the homes of their community. Suddenly, about five settlers appeared and began shouting at them in order to drive them away. One settler, known to the residents as “Eli,” pushed Bassem al-Khdeirat and the other settlers kicked some of the sheep. The brothers had to gather their flock and leave the area.

The settlers arrived from an outpost that was established on a nearby hill in early April this year, about 100 meters from the community. Since the outpost’s establishment, the residents of Khirbet Zanutah have been suffering repeated harassment and limited access to grazing areas.

The Mount Hebron Regional Council established an industrial area about a kilometer east of the community and installed solar panels in the fields. Israel erected the Separation Barrier about 1.5 kilometers south of the community.

In a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash, the shepherds’ sister, Maryam al-Khdeirat (54), described how her brothers and the rest of the community have suffered since the outpost was established:

I live with my brother Amin and help graze the flock my three brothers raise. The flock is the entire community’s source of livelihood. The other women in the village and I milk the sheep, make cheese, gather dry firewood and bring food to our brothers and husbands while they’re grazing the flock. In summer, I grow vegetables for the family in the flatland of the valley near the village.

In early April, a settler set up an outpost on top of the hill opposite our village, about 100 meters away. Since then, our lives have been disrupted and we’ve started worrying about our livelihood and our future. The settler stops us from taking the sheep out to pasture far from the village and uses a drone to watch us. When we graze the flock, he comes over and threatens us with weapons. He also grazes his flock among our crops.

Since the settler attacked my two brothers and threatened them, I haven’t dared go far from the village to gather firewood as I did for years. I have no choice but to boil milk on a camping stove, which costs us a lot of money. A few days ago, while I was boiling the milk, the settlers’ drone hovered over my head and scared me. I’ve also stopped taking food out to my brothers in the pasture, and my nephews are scared to do it, too.

The new outpost limits our movement around the village and our access to pastureland. I now stay in the village and focus on making dairy products. My brother Amin doesn’t go far with the sheep. He grazes them nearby and comes back earlier because there’s nowhere to go. Last week he bought a large amount of fodder. I heard my brothers talking about how much it cost and I know they’re very worried.

We’re used to living in out in the open and moving freely. We were born here and used to lead a good life with a good income. We made a living from our dairy products and relied on the pastureland without buying a lot of fodder. We used dry wood for heating, cooking and boiling milk, and a cistern filled with winter rains to water the flock. Now, that’s also too dangerous because the settlers threaten the shepherds when they go to the cistern and steal the water buckets. I don’t see how we can grow the vegetables we used to rely on in summer. All these things are expensive – fodder, gas, water and vegetables, which we now have to buy.

We don’t know what to do and how we’ll make a living if the outpost stays here and its residents continue attacking us.

Ibrahim Hamduni after the attack
Ibrahim Hamduni after the attack

Imreihah, Jenin District: Settlers assault and severely beat farmer (65) with clubs

On 29 April 2021, at around 7:00 A.M., Ibrahim Hamduni (65), a married father of eight, took his cows and sheep to graze south of his village, Imreihah, in Jenin District. The settlement of Mevo Dotan was established about three kilometers west of the pastureland, and the settlement of Hermesh was established about two kilometers west of it. 

At around 8:00, a settler arrived with a flock of sheep and called another settler to come. The two assaulted Hamduni with wooden clubs and beat him all over his body, including his head. Hamduni managed to get away and fled the area with this flock, bleeding from the head. The settlers drew back toward Mevo Dotan.  

After he had gone some distance, Hamduni called his son, who came to meet him and helped him walk home. From there, the son drove him to hospital in Jenin, where Hamduni was examined and X-rayed and had three head wounds stitched. He was also bruised all over his body from the blows.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi on 29 April 2021, Ibrahim Hamduni recounted being attacked by settlers: 

On Thursday, 29 April 2021, at around 7:00 A.M., I went out to pasture as usual with my five cows and three sheep. I take them to graze them in the valley south of our village, Imreihah, where there’s grass throughout the season.   

After I got there, a settler I know arrived. He grazes his flock in the same area. He came over to me and asked, “What are you doing here?” I told him I was grazing my cows and sheep on our land as I always do. He called someone and then another settler came, whom I’ve also seen with a herd in this area.  

The two settlers started hitting me on the head, chest and legs with clubs. My head and face started bleeding and my ribs hurt. I was there alone and had no way to defend myself. I managed to run away despite the pain and bleeding, and led my cows and sheep away.   

I saw that the two settlers move away towards the settlement of Dotan. I called my son Fuad and asked him to meet me and help me walk, because of the pain in my chest and head. I went towards the village and Fuad met me on the way. I leaned on him, and we kept walking until we got home at around 8:30 A.M.  

When we got there, my wife and the rest of my family were shocked to see me bleeding from my head. It was a sweltering day and I was fasting. My sons wiped the blood from my face and head, and Fuad took me in his car to the hospital in Jenin to have me tested and make sure that I wasn’t injured. I had severe pain in my head, legs, back and chest.  

The settlers’ violence is meant to scare us away from going to the pastureland, so they can take over the land.

The windshields smashed by the settlers. Photo courtesy of the car owner
The windshields smashed by the settlers. Photo courtesy of the car owner

‘Urif, Nablus District: Settlers stone passing car and smash its windows

On 27 April 2021, at around 11:00 P.M., Marwan Ahmad (26), a father of two from ‘Asirah al-Qibliyah, was driving on the road that connects his village with the village of ‘Urif. When he neared ‘Urif, Ahmad found boulders in the middle of the road blocking the way. He tried to turn around to drive back to his village, but five masked settlers appeared and started throwing stones at his car. They shattered the windshield, the sunroof and two headlights, and damaged the chassis, before Ahmad managed to drive away.

The settlement of Yitzhar was established about 800 meters north of this section of the road. On 18 April 2021, settlers torched the control panel of ‘Asirah al-Qibliyah’s water system, several hundred meters from the road.

B’Tselem has documented repeated attacks by settlers against residents of the villages neighboring Yitzhar, including ‘Asirah al-Qibliyah, ‘Urif, Burin, Madama and Huwarah, and acts of damage to their property by settlers.

Bani Na’im, Hebron District: Settlers stone shepherds, lightly stab one and fire at their dogs

On 15 March 2021, three Palestinians shepherds took their flocks out to pasture along with three dogs.

At around 2:30 P.M., four settlers approached them from the direction of the Yosef Or settlement outpost, also with three dogs in tow. The settlers attacked the shepherds and their flocks with stones.

One of the settlers fired a shot at the shepherds’ dogs, who ran away. He also threatened one of the shepherds with his gun, forcing him to gather the flock and leave the area. The settlers attacked a ewe and when one of the shepherds tried to fend them off, an armed settler wounded him lightly in the finger with a knife.

Meanwhile, the shepherd's father, who came home, reported the attack to the Israeli Civil Administration. About an hour later, a Civil Administration officer came to the spot and suggested the shepherds file a complaint at the Kiryat Arba police station. The residents and the settlers dispersed.

The following day, the shepherds went to the police station but after a futile six-hour wait, went home without filing a complaint. The next day, one of the shepherds went to the police station and managed to file a complaint.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, shepherd ‘Ali Hamdan (24), a married father of two, recalled the attack by the settlers:

I was grazing my flock in a valley near Khirbet ‘Ein al-Hamrah, about a kilometer and a half south of the settlement of Pnei Hever. There were two other shepherds from my family there.

Suddenly, I saw four settlers running towards us. I know one of them as “Nathan,” who set up a farm on the southern edge of Pnei Hever. He grazes his flock among our cultivated crops. The settlers were heading towards my cousin Muhammad, who was grazing the sheep closest to the settlement. I was afraid they’d attack him. I called Muhammad and my uncle Saber and warned them. I also called my father at home and told him what was happening.

While I was talking to Muhammad, he told me the settlers were attacking his flock with stones. A few minutes later, I saw the settlers coming in my direction. Two of them stopped at a high spot, and the other two continued towards me. Meanwhile, I saw Muhammad and Saber running in my direction. My dogs ran towards the settlers’ dogs, and then the settler “Nathan” fired a shot at my dogs, who ran and hid among the sheep.  

Then “Nathan” drew closer with another settler, and they started throwing stones at my flock. I yelled at them to stop. “Nathan” pulled out his gun, aimed it at me from about a meter away, and threatened to shoot. The two settlers standing on top of the hill threw stones at the flock, so I had to draw back and return home. Saber and Muhammad stayed put.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, Saber Manasrah (42), a married father of six, recounted what happened after ‘Ali returned home:

After ‘Ali moved away with his flock, I saw “Nathan” and the other settler grab a ewe that was lagging behind the flock and throw her on the ground. I intervened to get her out of their hands. “Nathan” pushed me with a sharp object and injured one of my fingers. Meanwhile, ‘Ali’s father came. He called a Civil Administration officer named Husam Ma’adi and told him what happened. Then I saw the settler “Nathan” talking on the phone, and I realized he was also talking with Husam.

The settlers let the ewe go. “Nathan” stayed there with the other settler, and I stayed with Muhammad and ‘Ali’s father, and we waited for more than an hour until Husam arrived. When he got there, he tried to calm things down. When he saw my injury, he suggested I file a complaint with the Israeli police. Then we all went home.

The shepherds live about three kilometers south of Bani Na’im. The settlement of Pnei Hever was established about a kilometer away. In 2018, settlers established the Yosef Or outpost on the southern edge of the settlement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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