Qawawis, South Hebron Hills: Settlers attack Palestinian car with children inside and beat father unconscious
On 13 March 2021, at around 8:00 A.M., Um Lasafa residents Sa’id (49) and Rima (40) ‘Awad went with their three children and 12 nephews and nieces to their land, which lies in the Qawawis area of the South Hebron Hills. When they reached the plot, near which the outpost of Mitzpe Yair has been established, the family saw a settler grazing his flock in their olive grove. After Rima ‘Awad began filming him, he called for more settlers and 12 others arrived, with masked faces, and attacked the family with stones. The settlers shattered the windshield and a side window of the family’s jeep with some of the children inside.
Two of the couple’s children, Sanad (15) and Mu’az (12), went aside and tried to drive the settlers away from their family by throwing stones at them. Meanwhile, two settlers approached the rest of the family and attacked Rima and Sa’id with an iron pipe and stones, as well as with their bare fists. After Sai’d lost consciousness, the settlers fled the area. A soldier arrived and called for an Israeli ambulance and for military back-up.
An Israeli ambulance took Sa’id and Rima to the road leading to the Mitzpe Yair outpost. From there, they were transferred to two Palestinian ambulances that took them to ‘Alia Governmental Hospital in Hebron. The children were taken home by relatives and villagers from Um Lasafa.
The couple underwent medical examinations and X-rays, which revealed that the settlers had broken Sa’id’s lower jaw and injured him in the head, while Rima suffered bruising in various parts of her body. Sa’id was transferred to al-Ahli hospital in Hebron, where he underwent surgery to set his jaw the following day.
On 17 March 2021, Sa’id ‘Awad file a complaint at the Kiryat Araba police station.
Members of the family gave the following testimonies to B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash:
In his testimony, Sai’d ‘Awad (49), a married father of 10 from Um Lasafa, recounted:
My family and I own more than 200 dunams [1 dunam = 1,000 sq. meters] of farmland in Qawawis. The Mitzpe Yair outpost was established northwest of our land, right next to it. Last year, a settler named Yossi started grazing his flock in our fields. We filed several complaints with the Civil Administration and the Israeli police, but nothing happened.
Despite this situation, I go to the land every Saturday with my family. We tend to the 150 olive seedlings we planted there a few months ago, and spend time with the kids.
On Saturday, 13 March 2021, I drove there in our jeep with my wife Rima and 15 small children: our three kids – Sanad (15), Mu’az (12) and Asil (7) – and nephews and nieces of mine. When we got there, we saw the settler Yossi grazing his flock in the cultivated part of our land. I got out of the jeep with my wife and our two sons, Sanad and Mu’az, and my wife started filming the settler. I heard him talking on the phone and asking more settlers to come. Within five minutes, 12 settlers arrived, including a man that I recognized as Yossi’s brother. As they drew near, they covered their faces and started throwing stones at us and at our car.
I stood in front of the car, picked up a stick and waved it at the settlers. I yelled at them not to come near because there were children in the car. Two settlers went up to my wife. One of them was holding an iron pipe about a meter long. He hit her with it and knocked her to the ground. I threw the stick at them to get them off my wife, and they left her and started coming towards me.
The settler with the pipe hit me in the face, head and jaw – and I fell down. The other settler threw a stone that hit me in the left hand, with which I was holding the phone to call the police. He broke the phone and it fell to the ground. I got up and tried to defend myself. I picked up stones and tried to throw them at the settlers and run after them. My two sons, Sanad and Mu’az, moved away and also started throwing stones at the settlers. The whole time, I heard the kids screaming in the jeep. Later, I found out that my daughter Asil had tried to protect them by hiding the little ones between the seats and shouting from inside the car. I took a few steps and then collapsed and blacked out.
I woke up in hospital with sharp pain in my jaw and head. It turned out that my lower left jaw is broken in several places, and I have bruising in the upper part of my head and around the left eye. Then they transferred me to another hospital, because they didn’t have a doctor who specializes in jaw surgery. After the doctors completed the tests, they decided to operate on me the following day in order to set the jaw. They said that it would have to stay set for at least two months. That means I can’t go to my job in Israel for two months, and the large family I support will suffer without this income.
In her testimony, Sai’d’s wife and mother of six, Rima ‘Awad (40), recalled:
Two settlers approached me. One of them was holding an iron pipe. He hit me on the left side of my body and I fell down. He tried to snatch the phone out of my hand, but my husband threw his stick at them and they backed away from me. I got up, doubled up in pain from the blow.
I saw the settler with the pipe go over to my husband, who was standing in front of our jeep, and attack him with the pipe. My husband fell down and then got up, walked several steps and fell over again. The attack was very quick and when my husband fell over again, the settlers fled.
I saw four soldiers quite far away from us. I was very worried about the small children – I heard them shouting from inside the jeep. Asil later told me how she’d tried to protect them and moved the little ones to sit between the seats. I saw my son Sanad go over to the soldiers and come back with one of them to show him his father, who was lying on the ground with a head injury.
I’m trying to remember what happened. I can’t believe we survived an attack by a whole group of hateful settlers who threw stones at us and at our jeep. They smashed the windshield and a side window while 13 small children were sitting inside, who could’ve been injured. It’s hard to believe my husband’s still alive after the blows he took to the head from the iron pipe.