Conflicts & War

Settler violence spikes in West Bank, impunity for aggressors

By Laura Fernández Palomo

Hebron, West Bank, Aug 15 (EFE).- Palestinian young man Basel Adra witnessed and recorded an attack by Israeli settlers in June, when they threw stones and torched farms, one of them going as far as to open fire at Arab residents.

The routine and systemic violence has been increasing in the past year against the Palestinian population of the West Bank.

“Since May (when the tension flared up through the region), we have been facing many organized attacks,” Adra told Efe.

“They arrive in minibusses; they cover their faces and have sticks and stones,” Adra added, at the heights of the South Hebron Hills.

On top of one of the nearby hills lies Havat Maon, a non-regulated settlement that is provided with government services, from where settlers organize attacks against Palestinians.

All settlements in the West Bank, directly regulated by Israel or not, infringe on international resolutions.

Currently, there are over 440,000 Israeli settlers living among 2.7 million Palestinians.

They aim to “make life miserable to drive out local populations” from the West Bank, according to Adra.

Since the beginning of the year, at least 212 attacks have targeted Palestinian properties and 94 have taken place against residents, who were injured, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

During the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, 270 attacks occurred despite lockdown measures, leaving 82 people wounded and extensive material damage.

“Everything is increasing: more demolitions, more confiscations, more settler attacks,” said Awda Hadalin, a resident of the Umm al-Khair, one of some 20 Palestinian communities located in Masafer Yatta in the south of the West Bank.

“They even raid the villages and attack people. That did not happen before,” he said.

Back in 2017, “every night and for more than two months” settlers did not stop throwing stones at the town, Hadalin recalled.

Ori Givati, a member of the Breaking the Silence NGO, told Efe: “Us soldiers are not sent to the West Bank to protect the Palestinians, the order is to protect the Israelis and the Jewish settlements.”

The NGO is a platform of former Israeli military officials that denounces the practices of the army in the West Bank.

The activists denounce the impunity of violence by settlers, as the police avoid intervening, or do so by dispersing the Palestinians.

“As a soldier, all you want is for the situation to end and that is why, in many cases, we see that instead of stopping the violence of the settlers, they throw gas grenades at the Palestinians, who are the victims,” Givati added.

Despite being largely documented by Palestinians, no action is taken regarding these attacks when denounced in Israel, something that Adra, Hadalin and Givati label as a systemic policy.

“As a system, as a country, as a state, as an army, as a defense ministry, we refuse to recognize the fact that the settlers are an extremely violent community, of course not all of them, but a large part of them,” Givati said.

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