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Su’ad ‘Alayan and Na’imah Makhamreh after the attack. Photo by Yasmin Eran-Vardi, 7 Nov. 2021
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Sadet a-Tha'leh, South Hebron Hills: Settlers attack Palestinians near their home, yet Israeli security forces drive the victims away

On 6 November 2021, at around 4:00 P.M., four settlers came with a flock of sheep from the direction of the Manne farm outpost to a water well used by residents of Sadet a-Tha’leh, a Palestinian community in the South Hebron Hills. The community is home to some 150 residents whose livelihood is based on farming and shepherding and is not connected to water or power grids. Two residents, Yusef Makhamreh (38) and his uncle Jamal ‘Alayan (47), went to the well and tried to drive the flock away. In response, the settlers threw stones at them.

Within minutes, several soldiers, Civil Administration personnel and police officers arrived.

The settlers claimed that Makhamreh and ‘Alayan had attacked them. ‘Alayan went over to the officers to complain about the settlers, but the officers put him in a police car. They drove him for about a kilometer and then dropped him off and handed him a summons for questioning at the Kiryat Arba police station the next day.

Makhamreh, who was left alone by the well, went home for fear of being arrested too. The settlers stayed by the well with their flock until evening.

The following day, at around 8:30 A.M., four settlers came with their flock to the well. Some were bearing clubs and firearms. Makhamreh, his wife Na’imah (39) and ‘Alayan’s wife, Su’ad (45), tried again to drive the sheep away from the well. Three settlers then attacked them with clubs, injuring them. A fourth settler recorded the attack on his cell phone.

After about half an hour, several military and Civil Administration jeeps and police vehicles drove up. About 10 masked settlers also arrived. In full view of the forces, the settlers chased after the sheep of a community resident who had brought them to water at the well. When more community residents arrived, the soldiers declared the area a closed military zone and ordered the Palestinians to go home.

A military medic gave first aid to the three wounded Palestinians, who were then taken to hospital. Yusef Makhamreh was diagnosed with a fractured wrist and bruises all over his body, Na’imah Makhamreh with bruises to the face and shoulder, and Su’ad ‘Alayan with bruises to the hand.

Jamal ‘Alayan was interrogated that morning by the police for allegedly assaulting the settlers and was returned home.

The Isaschar Manne farm outpost was established in 2021 as an extension of the nearby Ma’on farm outpost, about a kilometer from the community of Sadet a-Tha’leh, which is home to seven Palestinian families. Since a large sheep enclosure was built on the new farm, violent acts by settlers living there have significantly reduced the pastureland available to residents of Sadet a-Tha’leh and other area communities. According to a calculation by Kerem Navot commissioned by B’Tselem, settlers from the farm have taken over 1,537 dunams [1 dunam = 1,000 sq. meters] to date, in which they violently deny Palestinians access to farmland and pastureland. This is not a private initiative, but part of Israel’s policy to take over more and more Palestinian land throughout the West Bank.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bari on 10 November 2021, Yusef Makhamreh (38) described the attack by the settlers and his cousin’s arrest by the police:

Yusef Makhamreh. Photo by Manal al-Ja’bari, B'Tselem, 10 Nov. 2021
Yusef Makhamreh. Photo by Manal al-Ja’bari, B'Tselem, 10 Nov. 2021

In the past year, a settler put up a new outpost right next to us and called it the Manne farm. He installed trailers to live in and took over our pastureland. Now we have to buy fodder for the flock, which makes raising it expensive. We use a well near my house for drinking and watering the flock and the crops.

On Saturday, 6 November 2021, at around 4:00 P.M., I saw four settlers leading about 500 sheep towards our well. They were carrying a bucket and were going to draw water from the well for their flock. It was the first time settlers had come to the well. I was afraid they would take over the well, so I went there with my cousin Jamal ‘Alayan (47) and we started to drive the flock away. The settlers threw stones at us.

Within two minutes, two Israel Police cars, several Israeli military jeeps and a Civil Administration jeep arrived. The settlers had apparently called them and told them to come. The settlers claimed we had attacked them. My cousin Jamal went over to the police car to file a complaint against the settlers, but they put him in the car and drove away. After they drove for about a kilometer, they dropped him off and handed him a summons to go to the Kiryat Arba police station on Sunday at 9:00 A.M.

I went home because I was afraid of getting arrested, too. The settlers stayed by the well and only left in the evening.

In a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bari on 10 November 2021, Na’imah Makhamreh (39) recounted being attacked by settlers the day after her husband:

Na’imah Makhamreh. Photo by Manal al-Ja’bari, B'Tselem, 10 Nov. 2021
Na’imah Makhamreh. Photo by Manal al-Ja’bari, B'Tselem, 10 Nov. 2021

I live in Sadet a-Tha’leh with my husband Yusef and our children. I help my husband with grazing sheep and farming, which are our sources of income.

On Sunday, 7 November 2021, at around 8:30 A.M., I was doing housework when I saw three settlers leading about 500 sheep towards our private well, which is 70 meters from our home. One of the settlers was holding our bucket. My husband and I quickly went over to them. A relative of ours, Su’ad ‘Alayan (45), also came to the well. We shouted at the settler who was trying to pump water from the well for his flock. Yesterday was the first time settlers had come all the way to our well, and we were afraid they’d take it over and stop us from using it in future. It’s our only source of water, for us and for our flock.

The three settlers, who looked like they were in their thirties, had handguns and were holding clubs. The three of us tried to drive the flock away from the well. One of the settlers, whom we know as Yitzhak, filmed it on his phone. One settler attacked Su’ad and hit her hard in the palm of her hand with a club. Yusef and I tried to get him off Su’ad, but then the two other settlers attacked us and started hitting us with clubs while the settler Yitzhak kept filming on his phone. I was hit hard on the nose and also on my right shoulder, which hurt a lot. I yelled at the settler. They also attacked my husband and hit him with a club.

In his testimony, Yusef Makhamreh went on to describe the conduct of the Israeli security forces during the settlers’ second attack:

The settlers attacked us for about half an hour until a lot of Israeli military jeeps and four Israel Police and the Civil Administration vehicles arrived. More than 15 settlers also showed up, all of them masked.

Meanwhile, my cousin (18) brought our flock back from pasture and wanted to water it at the well. The settlers chased the flock in front of the police and the soldiers, who stood by and did nothing. In the meantime, more people from our village gathered there, and then the military drove them away and declared the area a closed military zone. The soldiers made some halfhearted attempts to control the settlers, but didn’t really try. An officer from the Civil Administration told me, “Your well is currently on the settler’s land, and it’s his right to enjoy the well as long as it’s on his land.”

Since the settlers established the Isaschar Manne farm in July 2021, they’ve taken over a lot of land in the area. They put up trailers, started cultivating large areas and took over our pastureland. Now, we're forced to buy fodder for the flock, which makes raising it much more expensive.