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Shooting, assaulting, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at cars and homes, raiding villages, torching structures and fields, vandalizing property and crops: settlers exercise harsh daily violence against Palestinians, with state support, to drive them out of their land. Launched in early 2020, this blog gives voice to the people exposed to this violence. Background on the topic

June 2020

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Khirbet a-Tawamin, 7 June 2020: The cave door settlers broke down to steal stored equipment. Photo: Nasser Nawaj'ah, B'Tselem
Khirbet a-Tawamin, 7 June 2020: The cave door settlers broke down to steal stored equipment. Photo: Nasser Nawaj'ah, B'Tselem

Khirbet a-Tawamin, South Hebron Hills: Settlers steal crops and agricultural equipment

In the morning hours of Saturday, 6 June 2020, Barakat Mahmoud (52), a resident of Yatta, went to his land in the abandoned village of Khirbet a-Tawamin, where his family once lived. The plot lies about four kilometers from Khirbet Emneizal, to which most of the villagers moved. The settlement of Susiya was established near Khirbet Emneizal in 1983.  

Mahmoud worked until late at night harvesting wheat and left the sacks with the crop to pick up the next day. The following morning, he returned and found some sacks ripped open and the others stolen. That morning, other farmers who went to work their land in Khirbet a-Tawamin discovered that settlers had broken into a cave being renovated as a residence. The settlers had vandalized the door and ransacked the interior, including mattresses and other objects. They also stole work tools and an electric motor.

The seven families who lived in Khirbet A-Tawamin were expelled in 2001, and most relocated to Khirbet Emneizal. The Israeli Supreme Court, responding to a petition by residents, ruled to allow them to return to the village to cultivate their land. Since then, he residents have worked there during the day and returned to their homes in Khirbet Emneizal and Yatta.

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Settlers gather around houses in ‘Asirah al-Qibliyah, 6 June 2020. Photo: Courtesy of Ibrahim Mahfuz's family.
Settlers gather around houses in ‘Asirah al-Qibliyah, 6 June 2020. Photo: Courtesy of Ibrahim Mahfuz's family.

‘Asirah al-Qibliyah, Nablus District: Settlers attack houses with stones, soldiers join in with live fire, stun grenades and tear-gas canisters

On Saturday evening, 6 June 2020, at around 6:30 P.M., about five settlers were standing on a hilltop overlooking ‘Asirah al-Qibliyah. Beside them were a military jeep and several soldiers. The settlers started making their way towards houses in the village, as did the jeep. Then the settlers began throwing stones at the houses. When the residents came out to defend themselves and their property – the soldiers responded by hurling stun grenades and tear-gas canisters and firing live fire in the air.

The assault on the village lasted about half an hour.

The Palestinian Authority has stopped coordinating with Israeli security forces, in light of Israel's annexation plans. Therefore, the victims had no one to turn to for even a show of protection and law enforcement, and the village council head called the Red Cross for help. Meanwhile, the settlers apparently had their fill of violence and left the area.

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Ancient olive tree cut down in Burin, 4 June 2020. Photo: Naser Qadus
Ancient olive tree cut down in Burin, 4 June 2020. Photo: Naser Qadus

Burin, Nablus District: Settlers cut down 80 ancient olive trees

Naser Qadus (52) learned over the phone that most of the trees on his plot had been cut down. It was around 5:00 P.M. on Thursday afternoon, 4 June 2020, when he got the terrible news.

Qadus' land lies in the southern part of the village, about two kilometers from where the settlement of Yitzhar was established. As the military forbids him from entering his own land without prior coordination with the Israeli DCO, he could not check on the trees straightaway. Two days later, in the early morning hours, Qadus finally got to his land and discovered that 80 ancient olive trees had been cut down.  

In a testimony he gave to B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, Qadus recounted:

I took advantage of the fact that the settlers don’t usually leave home early on Saturdays and went to my plot at about 7:00 A.M. I found they hadn't left a single tree intact. It looked like the trees had been cut down four or five days earlier, because the branches were starting to dry out. When I saw the trees lying on the ground, I choked up and quickly left. I couldn’t stay there and see that horrible sight.  

I managed to get home without running into the settlers or the military jeeps that patrol around Yitzhar. I feel completely helpless.

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Hasan al-Mashni after settler attack in the family's grove, 3 June, 2020. Photo: Musa Abu Hashhash, B’Tselem
Hasan al-Mashni after settler attack in the family's grove, 3 June, 2020. Photo: Musa Abu Hashhash, B’Tselem

A-Shuyukh, Hebron District: Three family members require medical treatment after settlers attack them with dogs

Taleb al-Mashni (73), his wife Khadrah Hlaiqah (59) and their son Hasan (36) were in their olive grove when six settlers suddenly pounced on them. The settlers broke Hasan’s finger, beat all three family members and threatened them at gunpoint. The grave incident occurred on Wednesday afternoon, 3 June 2020, when the family arrived at the plot they have been working for the last five years. The plot lies about four kilometers from a-Shuyukh and about two kilometers from the settlement of Asfar (known as Metzad), which was established in 1984.

At around 12:00 P.M., the family noticed about six settlers approaching them, four on ATV’s and two on foot with two dogs. On their way, the settlers drove out a shepherd whose flock had just invaded the al-Mashni’s land, while the family tried to shoo the sheep away to protect their young olive trees.

The settlers began shouting in Hebrew that it was their land and ordered the owners to leave. In the ensuing argument, one of the settlers gripped Hasan’s left hand and broke his finger. Two others started kicking and pushing him while the dogs bit his legs. Khadrah and Taleb tried to get the settlers off their son, but one of them snatched a stick Taleb was holding, kicked him in the stomach and hit Hasan on the head with the stick. When Khadrah tried to help her son, the settler beat her, as well.

Relatives who were in the area tried to separate the family from settlers, along with a shepherd who happened by the scene.  At that point, one of the settlers drew a gun and threated to shoot if his victims didn't leave. Taleb’s cousin, who arrived towards the end of the assault, tried to calm the threatening settler and the family moved away.

A short while later, the settlers withdrew towards the settlement of Metzad (Asfar).

Taleb al-Mashni spoke with B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash and described the attack on his family on their own land:

The settlers yelled at us to leave and claimed that we were on their land. Hasan and I replied that it was our land and they were the ones who should leave. They got very angry. One heavyset settler went over to Hasan and attacked him. He grabbed his left hand and twisted his middle finger. Two other settlers started to push Hasan and kick him, and the two dogs attacked him from behind.

I tried to threaten the settlers with my stick, but one of them snatched it from my hand and hit Hasan on the head with it.

Khadrah Hlaiqah also gave her testimony to B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash:

I heard Hasan screaming in pain. Two other settlers started pushing and kicking him. I saw two dogs attack Hasan from behind.
I saw Hasan lying on the ground, suffering the beating. It was horrible. My husband had his hands on stomach and it was obvious he was in pain, too. Suddenly, one of the settlers pulled a gun and started waving it around. He threatened to shoot if we didn’t leave.

After the assault, the family required medical treatment. The parents received first aid at a medical clinic in the town of a-Shuyukh. Hasan al-Mashni was taken to ‘Aliyah Hospital in Hebron, where he was examined and X-rayed. The broken middle finger in his left hand was put in a cast and he was referred for a rabies shot.

The next day, Hasan and his cousin ‘Ayed al-Mashni went to the police station in the settlement of Kiryat Arba and filed a complaint against the settlers who had attacked the family. They gave the officers video footage in which the attackers could be identified.

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Mahmoud Abu Sabhah, resident of Khirbet Emneizal in the South Hebron Hills.  Photo by Musa Abu Hashhash
Mahmoud Abu Sabhah, resident of Khirbet Emneizal in the South Hebron Hills. Photo by Musa Abu Hashhash

Khirbet a-Tawamin, Masafer Yatta: Settlers try to run over a shepherd, seize him and threaten him violently; police arrest the victim and demand bail for his release

Mahmoud Abu Sabhah (22), is a shepherd from Khirbet Emneizal in the South Hebron Hills. On Monday morning, 1 June 2020, he set out to graze his family’s flock, about 200 sheep, on pastureland the family owns near Khirbet a-Tawamin, where they used to live. The land lies about a kilometer and a half from Khirbet Emneizal, and the settlement of Susiya was established in 1983 near it.

At the pastureland, Abu Sabhah met another resident of Emneizal, Sadam Rashid (13), who was there grazing his family’s flock. At around 9:00 A.M., the two decided to lead their flocks to an adjacent hill. Rashid made his way there and Abu Sabhah stayed behind to water his flock from a well on the land.

Suddenly, a drone appeared overhead. It flew low over the sheep and they scattered in alarm. After about ten minutes, the drone moved away and two settlers appeared on an ATV. The driver, whom Abu Sabhah knows by the name Yaakov, drove towards him at high speed and chased him as he tried to escape.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash, Abu Sabhah related how the settlers chased and threatened him with a gun, a knife and a dog:

I ran towards an area with big boulders, which is difficult to cross with an ATV. I tried to call the Israel Police. When the settlers saw me take out the phone, they got off the ATV and ran towards me. Yaakov grabbed me, took out his gun and threatened to shoot me if I tried to call the police. The other settler took out a knife and kicked my leg, while threatening me with a dog he had on a rope. Then the setters went over to my sheep and tried to lead them towards the settlement.

Rashid, who saw what was happening from a nearby hilltop, phoned his relatives for help.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash, Rashid described the assault he witnessed:

From where I was standing, I saw a small drone flying near Mahmoud and his sheep. I saw the sheep run away and scatter in different directions. I assumed it was settlers from Susiya flying the drone. I was watching what was happening, and then I saw an ATV driving fast towards Mahmoud. I saw him running away from it. I called my cousin in Khirbet Emneizal. I told him that a group of settlers was attacking Mahmoud and asked that people come to help him. Suddenly, the ATV stopped. Two settlers and a dog got out and approached Mahmoud. I was terrified they would attack him and started heading towards them.  

At that point, Abu Sabhah called the Israel Police. After a few minutes, three soldiers arrived on foot. They led Abu Sabhah to the nearby Bet Yatir/al-Asaifer checkpoint, near the entrance to Khirbet Emneizal. There were several police patrol cars, a Civil Administration vehicle and military jeeps at the checkpoint. A police officer ordered Abu Sabhah to get into a patrol car, which drove him to the police station in the settlement of Kiryat Arba.

Meanwhile, Abu Sabhah’s father gathered the sheep that had scattered across the fields after the settlers left the area.

At the police station, Abu Sabhah had to wait for three hours. When he was finally interrogated, he was accused of falsely complaining that a settler had shot him. Abu Sabhah explained to the interrogator that he had reported to the police that a settler had threatened him at gunpoint to shoot him if he called the police. The interrogator informed him that he was under arrest and demanded that his family pay 500 NIS (~145 USD) bail to release him.

Abu Sabhah’s father deposited the bail. Abu Sabhah was released after having to commit to appear in court in November for a hearing in his case.

Slashed pipes in Khirbet Jib'it, 1 June 2020. Photo: courtesy of the family
Slashed pipes in Khirbet Jib'it, 1 June 2020. Photo: courtesy of the family

Khirbet Jab’it, Ramallah District: Settlers vandalize water pipes, forcing community to dismantle them every evening for protection

On Monday night, 1 June 2020, settlers cut the pipes that carry water from the community’s cisterns to its homes. The residents use the water for drinking, cleaning and watering flocks. It was the second time in a week that settlers vandalized the essential pipes.

Robbed of the precious resource, the residents had to buy water and transport it from the neighboring village of al-Mughayir. They also had to buy new pipes. They now dismantle the pipes every night and assemble them again at dawn, for fear the settlers will damage them again.

Last February, some ten settlers invaded the community’s homes on the pretext they were looking for sheep that had been stolen from them. Throughout the violent incursion, settlers attacked three shepherds, one of whom was hit in the head and rushed to a hospital. Two other residents were injured and treated on the spot.

May 2020

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Fence destructed by settlers in Fadel 'Aydah's plot. Beit 'Einun, 22 May 2020. Photo: Fadel 'Aydah
Fence destructed by settlers in Fadel 'Aydah's plot. Beit 'Einun, 22 May 2020. Photo: Fadel 'Aydah

Beit ‘Einun, Hebron District: Settlers uproot 130 olive seedlings and damage fence around plot in attempt to take it over

Fadel ‘Aydah (46), a resident of Hebron, learned of the damage the settlers had caused him on Friday, 22 May 2020. An area resident called him to say four settlers were on his land, uprooting the olive seedlings he had planted a year ago as part of a Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture project. ‘Aydah was at work and could only get to the land the next day. When he got there, the sight he found was unbelievable: Settlers had uprooted all 130 of his olive seedlings. Six days later, 'Aydah filed a complaint at the police station in the settlement of Kiryat Arba. He has not heard a thing about his case since.

The perpetrators quickly tried to leverage their vandalism to take over ‘Aydah's land. They returned with a bulldozer and demolished a substantial part of the fence that 'Aydah and his brother recently put up around the plot. That took place on 5 June 2020, and again the same resident spotted them and called ‘Aydah to report that one of the settlers who uprooted the seedlings was now destroying the fence. When ‘Aydah reached the scene, he found much of the fence in ruins.

‘Aydah’s land lies east of Beit ‘Einun. In the 1980s, the neighborhood of Giv’at Harsina in Kiryat Arba, was established about three kilometers from it.

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Settler children swearing and pounding on the Abu 'Eishah family's door, 18 May 2020
Settler children swearing and pounding on the Abu 'Eishah family's door, 18 May 2020

Tel Rumeidah, central Hebron: Settler minors attack 12-year-old Palestinian walking with father on street

The Abu ‘Eishah family, which consists of ten people, lives in the Tel Rumeidah neighborhood of Hebron. Their home is known by the unfortunate nickname “the cage house”, as they had to install bars and screens on the doors and windows to protect themselves from settlers. The house is located far away from the other Palestinian homes in the neighborhood. In 1984, the urban settlement of Admot Yishai was established right next to it.

Since the settlement was established, the family has suffered incessant harassment by settlers and the military.

On Monday, 18 May 2020, Taysir Abu ‘Eishah (58) and his son Haitham (12) were making their way home from the family’s clothing store. After they crossed the Tel Rumeidah (Gilbert) checkpoint, they passed by about ten children and youths from the settlement. One of them pushed Haitham to the ground. The father alerted a soldier who was standing a few meters away, but the soldier refused to intervene and ordered Abu ’Eishah and his son to go home.

The two continued on their way and the children chased after them, shoving, swearing and spitting at them. When Abu ‘Eishah tried to protect his son from a youth who pushed him, an adult settler emerged from an adjacent house and pushed Abu ‘Eishah in the chest. At that point, one of the soldiers there tried to keep the settlers at bay and radioed for backup. Meanwhile, Abu ‘Eishah took off his belt and started waving it to fend off the settlers. Then, about six more soldiers arrived. They dispersed the settlers and ordered Abu ‘Eishah and his son to go into their house.

After the father and son went inside and closed the door, the youths started pounding on the doors and windows. They spat at the windows, swore at the family and insulted the Prophet Muhammad. Abu ‘Eishah called out yet again to one of the soldiers and demanded that they remove the youths. Eventually, adults from the settlement arrived and took them away.

About half an hour later, an Israel Police patrol car arrived. Abu ‘Eishah told the officers what had happened. The officers promised to come back and collect footage from the family’s security cameras – yet never did so. That night, an Israeli DCO officer called Abu ‘Eishah’s brother and asked that they send him the footage by mobile phone. After Abu ‘Eishah’s son sent the footage, the family never heard back from the DCO or from the Israel Police.

Since they have given up hope of the police helping against settler violence, the family chose not to file a complaint at the station.  

In a testimony he gave to B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bari on 19 May 2020, Taysir Abu ‘Eishah described the terrifying reality his family has to endure:

We’re the only Palestinian family living here, right in the middle of the Admot Yishai settlement. The settlers often attack us. On 28 March 2020, a settler stole the security camera that B’Tselem installed at our house to document these attacks. On 24 April, a settler threw a stone at my brother Walid and injured his hand.

I didn’t go to the police station to file a complaint about our attack because when they injured Walid, he went to the station and the officers told him he couldn’t make a complaint due to the coronavirus.

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Iyad Hussein's injuries after settler attack, 16 May 2020
Iyad Hussein's injuries after settler attack, 16 May 2020

‘Einabus, Nablus District: “When the settlers were chasing me, I felt like their prey” – Settlers injure man resting in field and chase him

On Saturday, 16 May 2020, Iyad Hussein (42), a father of two, set out for a walk in the northern section of his village, 'Einabus. He sat down to rest under a tree. Around noon, Hussein suddenly heard noises. When he turned around, he noticed three settlers standing a few hundred meters away. They started throwing stones at him, one of which hit his forehead, causing it to bleed.

Hussein got up and fled in the direction of the village, with the settlers chasing after him.

On the way, he fell and injured his hand. He got up and kept running. Fortunately, the settlers gave up the chase and retreated, apparently towards the outposts near the settlement of Yitzhar. The settlement outposts were established about a kilometer from the village.
 
Once Hussein reached 'Einabus, he called his brother in law, who drove him to a medical clinic in Huwarah. There, his hand was bandaged and the wound on his forehead cleansed. Hussein was then transferred to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus, where he was X-rayed and the wounds in his hand were sewn. He was later discharged.  

A few month ago, settlers torched an elementary school classroom in ‘Einabus and sprayed hate graffiti on the external wall of the building, about 200 meters from the area where Hussein was attacked.

Two days after the incident, Iyad Hussein described his feelings in a testimony he gave to B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i:

I had no choice, I had to run. When the settlers were chasing me, I felt like their prey. They chased me and I was terrified. My heart almost stopped beating from fear. I felt dizzy and exhausted.

 

Mutilated trees in Yatma, 16 May 2020
Mutilated trees in Yatma, 16 May 2020

Yatma, Nablus District: Settlers cut down 29 olive trees

On 16 May 2020, around 5:00 P.M., Muhammad Najar and members of his family went from the village of Yatma to their olive grove, which lies north of the village. Upon arrival, they encountered a harsh sight: 29 olive trees, which were four years old, cut down by settlers and lying on the ground.

The family's farmland stretches over 18 dunams [1 dunam = 1,000 sq. meters], with an olive grove containing some 300 trees. In past incidents, settlers damaged trees in the grove and contaminated a well on the plot.  

In a testimony he gave to B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, Najar described the terror the settlers inflict on the area:

The only settlement nearby is Tapuach, but settlers pass through here all the time on their way to the area of Jabal al-'Orma area (Tel Aroma). It belongs to the village of Beita and they’re trying to take it over. Since nobody is stopping them, I’m afraid these attacks will continue.

 

Shattered windshields in Yazan Dawabsheh's car, 16 May 2020
Shattered windshields in Yazan Dawabsheh's car, 16 May 2020

Turmusaya, Ramallah District: Settlers batter car with iron pipe and axe

Three friends from the town of Abu Falah went for a stroll before the Ramadan evening meal. It was a Saturday evening, 16 May 2020. One of them brought his three kids along.

The men drove in two vehicles – Yazan Dawabsheh (23) in a car and his two friends in a jeep. They headed to the a-Sader area, east of Turmusaya, about a kilometer from where the settlement outpost of Adei Ad lies. When they reached their destination, Yazan parked his car and joined his friends in the jeep, as they were entering an unpaved path. They drove on for about 200 meters, parked and began their stroll.

Suddenly, an old black car with off-road tires appeared from the direction of Adei Ad and stopped by Dawabsheh’s car. Four masked settlers, armed with iron pipes and axes, got out and started hitting the car from all sides. Although the attack lasted less than a minute, they caused heavy damage. When the settlers heard Dawabsheh and his friends’ yelling, they got back in their car and left.

The next day, Yazan Dawabsheh described his feelings in a testimony he gave to B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad:

Within seconds, the settlers turned our outing into a terrible experience. We came back to the village shaken and in a bad mood. They destroyed nearly all the car's windows, including the windshield, broke the camera, and smashed the front mirror and a side mirror.

The repair will cost about 15,000 shekels (~4,280 USD). I don’t see the point in filing a complaint with the police, because the result is foregone. The police always take the settlers’ side, and that’s why it’s useless.

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Hate graffiti sprayed on a house wall in Beitin, 13 May 2020
Hate graffiti sprayed on a house wall in Beitin, 13 May 2020

Beitin, Ramallah District: Masked settlers spray hate graffiti on walls of homes

On 13 May 2020, around 2:45 A.M., Samer Saharan (34) heard noises outside his home. He opened the door and saw two masked men spraying graffiti on a wall about 300 meters away. Saharan alerted the village's emergency committee. When they arrived, the men retreated and fled towards Route 60.

Damage assessment revealed slogans sprayed on two walls: “Our soldiers’ lives come before the enemy's lives” and “I do not sleep when blood is spilled here”.

Such nightly visits are nothing new for the residents of Beitin. The settlement of Beit El (founded in 1977) and the outpost of Givat Assaf (founded in 2002) lie about a kilometer away, and the village suffers repeated state-backed attacks by settlers. In 2019, B’Tselem documented two incidents in which settlers punctured car tires and sprayed hate graffiti, as well as two assaults on residents. In 2018, B’Tselem documented an incident in which settlers punctured the tires of 26 cars from the village.

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Harbi ‘Abdu after settler attack, 6 May 2020. Photo: Sadam Salah
Harbi ‘Abdu after settler attack, 6 May 2020. Photo: Sadam Salah

Burqah, Nablus District: Settlers hurl stones at shepherds, break one’s leg and scatter herd

While leading a flock of 120 sheep to pasture, a pair of shepherds were suddenly attacked with stones by about ten settlers. During the violent encounter, the older man broke his leg as a result of the stone-throwing. His nephew managed to help him escape before they were injured even further.

On Wednesday afternoon, 6 May 2020, Harbi ‘Abdu (51) and his nephew Hamuda (26), residents of Beit Imrin, were out grazing their flock in a field situated between the northern part the village of Burqah and the former settlement of Homesh (evacuated in 2005). Suddenly, a group of settlers appeared before them. Some were armed with wooden clubs and stones, some were masked and one was carrying a gun. Though the two were about 200 meters away from the settlers when they caught sight of them, they had no chance of escaping with their flock.

As they tried to gather their flock, the settlers approached and began throwing stones at them, one of which hit Harbi’s left leg and broke it. He fell to the ground. As he tried to crawl away, the settlers struck him with more stones.  

Hamuda rushed to the nearby village of Burqah to call for help, but when he heard his uncle yelling for help, he returned. He noticed the assailants leading the flock away towards Homesh. When the settlers saw he had returned, they began throwing stones at him as well. The two barely managed to escape, while Hamza supported Harbi’s injured leg.

They cried out for help.  

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i on 6 May 2020, Harbi described the attack:

They came from different directions so that we wouldn’t notice them. Within seconds, they started throwing stones at me. When the first stone hit my left leg, I writhed in pain, fell, and tried to crawl away from them. But they kept throwing stones that hit my back and shoulders.

The settlers were yelling in Hebrew, and I didn’t understand what they were saying. I tried calling people from Burqah for help, because I was scared that they would finish me off and kill me, but no one heard me. When they saw I couldn’t get up, they started gathering the sheep and leading them away.

When my nephew saw the state I was in, he tried to help, but he couldn’t carry me. He supported my leg, and I moved away from there, crawling. Thorns ripped my pants, and I felt dizzy and nauseous.

I graze my herd in this area often, and since people from Burqah were attacked there a few times in the past, I’m very careful, and if I see any settlers, I immediately move away. This time, they snuck up on us, and we didn’t see them coming.

After moving about 50 meters away from the scene of the attack, Harbi and Hamuda came across residents of Burqah, who helped carry Harbi to an ambulance they had called. He was taken to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus. Harbi was diagnosed with a fracture in his left leg and told he would need surgery to set the bones in his leg.

One of the residents reported the incident to the Palestinian DCO.

Hamuda, who stayed behind, managed to locate 15 of the sheep, which had scattered in the area, and led them back to the village. He then drove in the direction of Homesh, escorted by 40 cars of relatives and residents of Burqah, and located the rest of the flock near the vacated settlement. After a long, rough day, Hamuda and the flock returned to the village.

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חלקת האדמה של זיאד מח'אמרה, לאחר גניבת היבול
חלקת האדמה של זיאד מח'אמרה, לאחר גניבת היבול

Khirbet Bir al’-‘Eid, Masafer Yatta, South Hebron Hills: Settlers drive shepherd out of his land using threats, dogs and crop theft

On Friday afternoon, 5 May 2020, Ziad Makhamreh was out grazing his flock on his land. Suddenly, a settler appeared before him with two large dogs, which he set on him. Makhamreh fled the scene with his flock, as the settler and the dogs chased after him. When he finally reached his doorstep, the settler threatened to harm his family if he dared graze the flock at that spot again. Shortly after, two other armed settlers arrived at Makhamreh’s doorstep and threatened him, too.

The settler with the dogs had come from the direction of Nof Nesher, a settlement outpost also known as Havat Talia.

Three days later, on Sunday morning, while Makhamreh was watering the flock from a well on his land, the settler reappeared and drove him and the flock out. Makhamreh went home and returned to his pastureland at 14:00 P.M. This time, he discovered that settlers had stolen a substantial amount of his wheat crop, which he had reaped and laid out to dry two days earlier. Makhamreh called the Israeli police. When the officers arrived, they advised him to file a complaint at the police station in the settlement of Kiryat Arba.

The settlement outpost of Nof Nesher was founded in 1996, about 800 meters south of Makhamreh’s land. In 1998, the Mitzpe Yair outpost was founded about 900 meters north of his land. The residents of Bir al-‘Eid, like those of other villages in the Masafer Yatta area, were expelled from their lands by the Israeli military in 1999. After waging a legal battle, they were permitted to return  to their lands in 2009. Since then, they have been suffering, along with the rest of the area’s residents, from incessant harassment by settlers and the military.

Makhamreh explained why he chose not to file a complaint about the assaults and the theft at the Kiryat Arba police station:

The settlers keep attacking me, and I’ve filed complaints with the police several times. Every time I come to the police station, the officers force me to wait outside for hours before they allow me to enter. When I file the complaint, they demand evidence of the settlers’ involvement. On January 2019, a settler attacked and beat me in front of soldiers. The police arrived while my face was bleeding. The officers took me to the Kiryat Arba station to file a complaint. In the end, they charged me with assaulting the settler and ordered me to pay 1,000 shekels (~285 USD) bail to get released.

The settlers from the Nof Nesher outpost, which was erected less than a kilometer from my home, attack us all the time. We know them by now: they’re the sons of Yaakov Talia, who established the outpost. They chase after our sheep and us and prevent us from watering them at the Bir al-‘Eid well.

 

April 2020

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‘Abdallah Salman’s injured hand after a settler attack in Far’ata, 29 April 2020
‘Abdallah Salman’s injured hand after a settler attack in Far’ata, 29 April 2020

Far’ata, Qalqiliyah District: Settlers beat farmers with plastic clubs, the same day Israeli DCO finally grants them access to their lands

On Wednesday, 29 April 2020, the Far’ata municipality informed local farmers that the Israeli DCO had given them permission to work their lands for the first time since the harvest season began. The permit was valid for one day only, which was the following day. 

The Salman family owns an olive grove stretching over 42 dunams [1 dunam = 1,000 sq. meters]. The next day, ‘Abdallah Salman arrived at the grove along with his wife, sons and a relative, Baraa Salman (28). Baraa brought his tractor with him, and the family spread out in the plots and started working. 

At around 10:30 A.M., ‘Abdallah and Barra finished plowing one plot and made their way to the next one. ‘Abdallah guided the tractor’s path on foot. While he was walking, he noticed the chief of security of Havat Gilad observing them from a nearby hill. The chief of security left, and two settlers armed with black plastic clubs, one of them also masked, suddenly appeared. 

The settlers pushed ‘Abdallah to the ground and hit him all over the body, including the head, with their clubs until he lost consciousness. Baraa, who saw what was happening, stopped and got off the tractor. When the settlers detected a new victim, they started beating him as well. After they had their fill, they stopped the attack and fled.

‘Abdallah regained consciousness and Baraa helped him up. Despite their poor physical state, they decided to keep working, as the DCO had only granted them one workday. A few minutes later, the chief of security arrived and claimed that they should  have notified the soldiers before moving between the plots. A while later, soldiers and DCO officials who were passing by arrived on the scene and took their statements about the attack. 

When the pain became too unbearable, Baraa decided to go home with the tractor and asked his father to take over the plowing. The father joined the family, and they continued working until 3:30 P.M. and then returned home. 

‘Abdallah and Baraa were examined at Mahmoud Darwish Hospital in Qalqiliyah and found to have contusions as a result of the beatings. After leaving the hospital, they drove to the Palestinian police in Qalqiliyah to file a complaint. 
 

In a testimony he gave to B’Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi, ‘Abdallah Salman described the moments of the attack:

עבדאללה סלמאן. התמונה באדיבות העד
‘Abdallah Salman

The settlers pushed me. I fell to the ground and they began beating me – on my head, my shoulders and all over my body. I lost consciousness for a short while, and later I found out they’d also attacked Baraa. 

A few minutes later, the chief of security showed up in the grove and started making accusations against us. He said we should have notified the soldiers before moving between the plots, so they would come to protect us. I think he knew beforehand that the settlers were about to attack us.

These acts of aggression will only make our attachment to the land stronger. We won't give it up! The settlers want to drive us out to take it over.

The settlement outpost of Havat Gilad was established in 2002 near Far’ata lands. 

Hate graffiti sprayed by settlers on a wall in Sarra, 30 April 2020
Hate graffiti sprayed by settlers on a wall in Sarra, 30 April 2020

Sarra, Nablus District: Settlers spray hate graffiti on fences and slashed tires of 16 cars

The settlement outpost of Havat Gilad was built about two kilometers from the Palestinian village of Sarra.

On Thursday morning, 30 April 2020, residents of the village’s southern neighborhoods discovered their properties had been vandalized. Settlers sprayed two fences with the inscription: “When we and our soldiers get stabbed, there are Jews who don’t stay silent!”. They also slashed the tires of 16 cars.

The settlers captured in the security cameras in Sarra, 30 April 2020

A security camera captured three masked settlers wondering around the village at 2:00 A.M.

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A vandalized fence in Turmusaya, 14 April 2020
A vandalized fence in Turmusaya, 14 April 2020

Turmusaya, Ramallah District: Settlers vandalize fences meant to protect groves from their incursions

On Saturday, 25 April 2020, Riyad Jabara (45) and Mahmoud ‘Ali (80), residents of Turmusaya, discovered that settlers had vandalized the protective fences around their plots and the gates they had installed in them. The farmland in question is located in the area of a-Dhahrat, about three kilometers east of the village.

The perpetrators destroyed gates and protective fences surrounding both plots, stretching 20 meters long in Ali’s land and 50 meters long in Jabara’s. The latter had erected the fence around an area he’d prepared for planting olive trees.

About six years ago, Jabara planted olive trees on his land. Last year, settlers vandalized some of them. In late March 2020, they destroyed the 40 trees that had survived the previous attack.

The settlement outpost of Adei-ad was founded in 1998 about 500 meters from both plots.

The farmers of Turmusaya have been suffering from constant harassment by settlers for years. In April 2020 alone, B’Tselem documented four more cases of destruction of trees, and another case of vandalizing a fence. The fences were erected by the International Red Cross in 2018, as part of an initiative to protect farmland in the area.  

Farmers are not only hard put to protect their crops from the invaders, but also face another significant obstacle: the Israeli military prohibits local landowners from visiting their land daily and only grants them access several days a year, during the harvest and plowing seasons. 

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Mutilated trees in a-Sawiyah, 24 April 2020
Mutilated trees in a-Sawiyah, 24 April 2020

A-Sawiyah, Nablus District: Settlers cut down 35 olive trees Hamdi Jazi’s plot, grown for over 40 years

“The Israeli DCO is looking for the offenders at the end of the world,” Hamdi Jazi (56) said helplessly, “while they’re before their very eyes!”. This time, he refused to meet with the DCO official who came to his land to examine the damage and the trees the settlers chopped down; he has given up hope the offenders will be caught and punished.

On Friday morning, 24 April 2020, Jazi received a phone message from a village resident informing him of harsh sights in his olive grove. He rushed there with his sons and discovered that settlers had cut down 35 of his trees, which were at least 40 years old, and left only five intact.

This January, settlers cut down 80 olive saplings he had planted in 2013.

Jazi owns two dunams of land [1 dunam = 1,000 sq. meters] near Route 60, about a kilometer northwest of a-Sawiyah.  

The settlement of Rehelim was founded in 1991 about 600 meters away, on village land.

In a testimony he gave on 25 April 2020 to B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, Jazi described his feelings:

I was shocked when I saw 35 olive trees lying on the ground. They’d cut them off at the stem, apparently just that night, because the trees were still green. I felt like I’d just witnessed an execution! They murdered those trees. I couldn’t bear the sight and left.”

Crimes against farmers take place every day in the West Bank, and it’s evident from the settlers’ actions that they’ve marked the area and are deliberately destroying it. They damaged my trees and those of landowners from nearby plots. They overlook nothing and destroy everything. What did the trees do wrong?!

I don’t have any trees left, and I’m afraid to come to the grove because of the settlers’ aggression. 
 

Mutilated olive trees in Ras Karkar, 24 April 2020
Mutilated olive trees in Ras Karkar, 24 April 2020

Ras Karkar, Ramallah District: 50 olives trees uprooted and broken, futile complaint filed

On 24 April 2020, Radi Abu Fkheidah, a 65-year-old farmer, went to plow his land. He discovered that in his absence, settlers had damaged 50 olive trees he had planted a decade ago. Some of the trees were uprooted and others had broken branches. Abu Fkheidah reported the damage to the Palestinian DCO. 

The settlement of Nerya was established about 200 meters from the plot.  

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The car of the settler who stole goats from Abu ‘Aram, Qawawis
The car of the settler who stole goats from Abu ‘Aram, Qawawis

Qawawis, Masafer Yatta, South Hebron Hills: Settlers attack shepherd with pepper spray and steal his goats

On Tuesday afternoon, 21 April 2020, Jabarin Abu ‘Aram (56), a father of nine, set out to graze his flock at his pastureland west of Qawawis. The grazing was peaceful, as his wife worked their land nearby. 

A car with Israeli license plates came from the direction of the Mitzpe Yair outpost and stopped on the road. Two settlers got out and approached Abu ‘Aram. One of them pepper-sprayed him. Abu ‘Aram retreated and started throwing stones at the settlers to drive them away. 

In a testimony he gave on 27 April 2020 to B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash, he recounted: 

Two guys got out of the car. They were speaking in Hebrew, and one of them said to the other: “There’s nobody here but him, we can slaughter him and take his goats.” One of them approached me, holding something that looked like a gun. I thought he was going to shoot me. I yelled for help and hoped my wife could hear me.

The settlers hurled stones at Abu ‘Aram, and one of them took a goat and put it in the car. He then came back and took another goat. Abu ‘Aram’s wife arrived and started shouting. The settlers got in the car and left with the goats. 

Abu ‘Aram photographed the car and contacted human rights activists in the area, who called the police. A few minutes later, police officers arrived and drove Abu ‘Aram to the station, where he filed a complaint. 
 
Later in his testimony, Abu ‘Aram recalled the investigation and his conclusions from the incident: 

The investigator promised me he would look for the settlers and bring my goats back. I told him it wouldn’t be difficult, since the settlers drove to Mitzpe Yair. He answered that he knows his job and would be in touch. It’s been a week and nobody has called. I didn’t get my goats back, and I doubt I ever will. I don’t think the police will contact me, since they’re not interested in going after the settlers. 

We’re here on our land, with our flock, and all we want is to live. But we have no protection and we live in constant fear and anxiety from the settler’ attacks. They operate outside the law, and the threat is real. We have no choice but to live in this dangerous reality.

Route 317 passes by the lands of the Abu ‘Aram family. A dirt path from the road leads to the settlement outpost of Mitzpe Yair, founded in 1998. 

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