Settlers torch residents’ cars for second time this year and spray hate slogan, Beit Iksa, al-Quds District
On the night of 27 April 2021, at around 9:30 P.M., residents of Beit Iksa noticed that a fire had broken out by the locked gate that Israel has installed on the road leading from the village to Jerusalem via the neighborhood of Ramot. As many of the villagers have East Jerusalem residency, since the gate was put up in 2010 they have been forced to park their cars on the other side of it to avoid traveling to Jerusalem through Ramallah and the Qalandiya Checkpoint, which lengthens the journey by at least half an hour.
When the residents went to the spot, they discovered settlers had set fire to cars parked on the other side of the gate. Two of the cars had burned down entirely and one was partially burnt. Another car the settlers had tried to torch did not catch fire. The residents found the slogan “Jews, let’s win, TikTok” sprayed on the road.
Settlers torched two cars belonging to a village resident a month earlier, on 19 March. On both occasions, the Palestinian firetrucks were greatly delayed as the military demands prior coordination to allow passage through the checkpoint at the second entrance to the village. The Israeli firefighters arrived sooner, along with Israel police, military and Border Police forces, but the latter prevented them from getting near enough to put the fire out. The police officers collected statements from the car owners and from several residents.
The Palestinian village of Beit Iksa lies northwest of Jerusalem, within the West Bank but outside the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem. In 2010, the military put up a permanent checkpoint at the only entrance into the village. Since then, Israeli security forces have only allowed people registered as village residents or bearing a special permit to enter the village.
In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad on 28 April 2021, H.H. recounted how the settlers torched the cars and security forces held Israeli firetrucks back:
On Tuesday evening, 27 April 2021, I was sitting with friends in the doorway of my house. The house lies on the outskirts of Beit Iksa, overlooking the area where Israel closed off the old road to Jerusalem that runs through the settlement of Ramot.
At around 9:30 P.M., I saw a flash of fire and something catching fire near the gate. I assumed it was a car, because Jerusalem residents who live in Beit Iksa park there. I grabbed a fire extinguisher and headed there with my friends in my car. It took us less than two minutes.
When we got there, I saw a group of settlers in the act of setting fire to other Palestinian cars parked there. One of them, who was masked, was spraying graffiti on the road. I was later told that it said, “Jews, let’s win, TikTok.” There were about 10 other setters waiting near the gate. Some of them were masked. When we got closer, we yelled at them and they ran away through the groves and dirt road towards Ramot.
We focused on putting out the fire and didn’t try to chase them. Two cars were going up in flames. The rear of another car was on fire, so we worked on putting that out with the extinguisher. They’d poured gas on another car and lit it, but it hadn’t caught fire.
We notified the Palestinian and Israeli fire departments, and called village residents to come with fire extinguishers. Two of the cars were still ablaze and we used branches and poured dirt on them to try and put them out, but it didn’t work.
Within 5 to 10 minutes, two Israeli firetrucks and an ambulance arrived along with several military, Israel Police and Border Police jeeps. They all parked on the Ramot side. The Border Police officers stopped the firetrucks from going ahead because the Palestinian fire squad can’t enter without coordination. It took them about 45 minutes to get to the fire, and by then it had consumed the two cars.
In a testimony he gave field researcher Iyad Hadad on 28 April 2021, Muhammad Kiswani (27), a father of two from Jerusalem who lives in Beit Iksa, described the torching of his car:
At around 10:00 P.M., I was at work in Jerusalem when my family called and told me that settlers had torched two cars parked near the western gate. One of them was my other car. I drove over within 20 minutes.
When I got there, the police held me back until they realized I had a car there, and then they let me through on foot. By the time I arrived, my car and another car had burned down and the fire was out.
There were slogans in Hebrew on the road.
The burning of my car caused me financial damage and emotional distress. It cost me NIS 6,000 (~1,836 USD). I work at a restaurant to support my family. Having a second car made things a lot easier, because it meant I could travel inside the village and leave it outside the locked gate. It allowed me to avoid taking the bypass road through Qalandiya Checkpoint, Ramallah and the villages northwest of Jerusalem. That’s a 40 or 50 km trip that takes a long time because of the constant traffic jams at Qalandiya, where you can get stuck for 30 minutes to two hours.