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From the field

While millions of people in Israel and the West Bank are under lockdown, state-backed settler violence continues unabated. Settlers are attacking Palestinian shepherds in pastureland and entering villages, attacking residents and destroying their property. Despite the coronavirus crisis, the escalated violence has continued in recent weeks.

November 2020


Burin, Nablus District: Settlers falsely accuse Palestinian of stone-throwing and set out on a rampage in his plot. Soldiers do not intervene to protect the family’s property

In the early morning hours of Monday, 23 November 2020, nine members of the ‘Umran family set out to plant and sow fruit and vegetables. The adults were joined by five children, ranging in age from two to 15, and they went together to their plot that stretches about five dunams south of Burin. At around 10:00 P.M., while work was in progress, three soldiers came from the direction of the nearby military watchtower and asked the family if they had seen young men throwing stones at the road. The family members replied negatively. The soldiers stayed in the area for several minutes and then left.

About 10 minutes later, around seven settlers arrived along with the same three soldiers. The settlers, some of whom were armed with handguns, began yelling and cursing at the family. They claimed that the father, Yasser ‘Umran (39), was the one who had thrown stones at the road. The soldiers ordered the family to leave the plot, and then the settlers started scattering the seeds, uprooting seedlings, and destroying the family’s property. They also destroyed food, books, and clothes the family members had brought with them. The family was forced to move from their land to a nearby plot, where they waited for about an hour until the settlers and the soldiers left. When they returned to their plot, they discovered the extent of the destruction the settlers had left behind. At that point, a military jeep arrived and stayed in the area until the family went home at around 4:00 P.M.

In a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, Suha ‘Umran (37), a married mother of eight from Burin, recounted:

We planted fig, plum, and loquat seedlings. About a week ago, we plowed the land, and on Monday, we came there to sow beans, garlic, onion, potatoes, and strawberries. We hoped the crops would provide us with extra income because since the coronavirus started, my husband’s income from his work as a barber has really gone down.

My sister-in-law Najwa (52) and her son’ Iz a-Din came with us. We were in the middle of work, and I was about to make some tea, when three soldiers arrived from the nearby watchtower. They spoke in Hebrew with my husband, and later I understood that they’d claimed there were stone-throwers in the area, and they asked if we’d seen them. About 15 minutes later, the soldiers left, and we continued working. Ten minutes after that, the soldiers came back with seven to 10 settlers, who started yelling at us. They all wore masks, and some of them had guns in their belts. They cursed at us in Hebrew, but I understood when they said, “Son of a bitch.”

My husband, who knows Hebrew, told me later that the settlers accused him of throwing stones at the road.

My daughter Rimal (2), who I was holding, started crying and screaming out of fear, and so did my son al-‘Uqab (5) and my daughter ‘Abir (4). I tried to calm them down and told them to get away, but they didn’t want to go without me, and I didn’t want to leave my husband there alone, surrounded by settlers.

The soldiers demanded again and again that we leave. Some of the settlers started taking our belongings and throwing them all over. They also scattered some of the seeds we’d brought with us, our food and drink, and the schoolbags the children brought to do homework and study for exams. The settlers also tore the children’s schoolbooks. They even threw our mats on the road. One settler emptied our teapot on the campfire, and when I asked him why he did that, he made a throat-slitting gesture.

Meanwhile, my husband and my nephew ‘Iz a-Din argued with the settlers and refused to leave. My husband tried to explain to them that we were on our land and that we weren’t responsible for what was happening on the road. But they wouldn’t listen, and, in the end, we drew back to a neighboring plot. The settlers kept throwing and destroying everything.

We stood and watched what the settlers and the soldiers were doing on our land. After they left, we came back to the plot, and what we saw there was truly sad. Nothing was left intact. They destroyed everything. They even broke the new seedlings we’d planted. I found some of Rimal’s clothes in a nearby thorn field. The settlers also stole two hoes, a pick-ax, and a rake. We gathered what we could save and replanted the seeds. At one point, a military jeep arrived and stayed in the area until we went home, at around 4:00 P.M.

When we came home, the kids were still in shock. Adam couldn’t study for the test he had. He just kept staring at the book the settlers had torn. ‘Abir told me, “I’m afraid the soldiers will take you and put you in jail.” The incident really affected them. I even heard them talking in their sleep, and they woke up several times at night. The next day, I walked them to school and bought them new books.

In a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, Najwa ‘Umran (52), a married mother of eight from Nablus, also described the incident:

Usually, we don’t encounter any problems when we go to our land. Soldiers often arrive and ask us what we’re doing there, and we reply that we’re working our land, and they don’t do anything. What happened this time was unbelievable.

Until the soldiers and the settlers arrived, we enjoyed nature and the beautiful weather. We worked, talked, and laughed together.

I didn’t really understand what they wanted, if our presence there just bothered them or if someone had really thrown stones at them as the military claimed. We didn’t see anything like that. The area we were in was completely quiet, and traffic on the Yitzhar road flowed normally.

I got so mad when I saw the settlers destroying everything, but I held back so my son and my brother wouldn’t get upset, too. Instead, I told them, “Let them do what they want. The most important thing is that you’re safe and sound. The rest can be replaced.” I wanted to calm them down because we had no choice but to be patient. After all, the military protects the settlers and does nothing for us.

October 2020

Muhammad Ziben, who was attacked by settlers while working his family’s plot, Burin, 23 Oct. 2020. Photo by Salma a-Deb’i, B’Tselem.
Muhammad Ziben, who was attacked by settlers while working his family’s plot, Burin, 23 Oct. 2020. Photo by Salma a-Deb’i, B’Tselem.

Burin, Nablus District: Settlers stone family harvesting olives and injure member

On Friday, 23 October 2020, at around midday, members of the Ziben family were harvesting olives in their grove south of the village. Suddenly, seven settlers appeared, surrounded the family and started throwing stones at them.

Brothers Imad (58) and Bashir (64) Ziben took refuge behind an olive tree, while three of their relatives shouted at the settlers and tried to make them leave. The women of the family, who were picking olives about 20 meters away, alerted residents who were working in nearby plots.

At that point, about 20 more settlers arrived, some of them wearing masks and carrying wooden sticks and iron bars. The settlers continued throwing stones at the family, and one stone hit Muhammad Ziben (32) in the head. He was evacuated and given treatment. He later returned to the grove on horseback, at the sight of which the settlers became frightened and left.

After the incident, Muhammad Ziben felt dizzy and was taken to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus, where doctors found a laceration in his scalp and bleeding in his ear. He was transferred to al-Istishari Hospital in Ramallah, where he was held for observation and discharged two days later.

In a testimony he gave B'Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb'i, Muhammad's father, ‘Imad Ziben (58), a father of four and unemployed metalworker, described the attack:  

On Friday morning, 23 October 2020, at around 7:30 A.M., I went with my wife Dalal (54), our children Muhammad (32) and Musa (28), my sister Kifah (53), my brother Bashir (64) and his wife Basma (56) and their son Ahmad (34) to our plot, which is on the southern side of the village. The area is called Khallet al-Ghul. The settlement of Yitzhar was built about a kilometer away from our plot, on land belonging to our village and to neighboring villages.

We own four dunams [1 dunam = 1,000 sq. meters] of land with almost 100 olive trees, 15 almond trees and two grapevines. My grandfather, may God rest his soul, planted all of them and they're large and bear fruit.

I love my land and work it a lot. I don't need coordination to enter it. I work it all year round, including the almond and grape seasons.

I'm very attached to our land and always harvest it with my family, even though I have back problems and can't really pick the fruit. I love being there with my family and want to protect the land from settlers.

After we got there, I sat down and watched the others. At around 12:30 P.M., stones suddenly started flying at us. One of them passed right by my head. I heard my sons yelling. Settlers appeared from behind the trees on the eastern side of the grove. They snuck up on us before we noticed. There were about seven of them and they were wearing masks. They stood on a spot a bit above us, about four meters away, and threw stones at us.

I tried to hide behind a tree with my brother Bashir, who was next to me.

Our sons tried to protect us and fend off the settlers. The women of the family, who were working about 20 meters from us and hadn’t been injured, alerted people from the village who were working in a nearby plot. Meanwhile, another group of about 25 settlers arrived and surrounded us. I saw that some of them were holding wooden sticks and iron bars.

My son Muhammad was hit in the head by a stone and fell down. His brother Musa took him away, and my other sons tried to protect us by throwing stones back at the settlers. The settlers kept on throwing stones at us.

In the end, Muhammad came back riding a horse and drove the settlers out. Meanwhile, several people arrived from the village. Later Muhammad felt dizzy, so I took him to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus.

At the hospital, they X-rayed him. It turned out that he had a tear in his scalp and bleeding in his ear. They transferred him to al-Istishari Hospital in Ramallah because they thought he'd need surgery. In the end, they decided it wasn't necessary because his situation had stabilized and he felt better. He was discharged on 25 October 2020.

The settlement of Yitzhar was established about a kilometer from the Ziben family's plot.

A settler harvesting olives at the Kurdi family’s grove, Burin, 12 Oct. 2020. Photo by a witness to the incident
A settler harvesting olives at the Kurdi family’s grove, Burin, 12 Oct. 2020. Photo by a witness to the incident

Burin, Nablus District: Settler harvests olive trees belonging to village resident and steals the fruit

Yihya Kurdi (46), a father of three, grew up in Burin and lives in Qalqiliyah. His family owns two plots of land in Burin, one of them adjacent to his childhood home on the eastern side of the village. After the second intifada began and the Huwarah Checkpoint was installed about a kilometer away, the family decided to sell the house and move to Qalqiliyah, but kept the plot.
There are about 45 olive trees in the plot, which consists of four dunams [1 dunam = 1,000 square meters]. The family's second plot has 50 olive trees and consists of two dunams, about 100 meters south of the first plot.

On 12 October 2020, a village resident noticed a settler harvesting olives in one of the plots and sent Yihya Kurdi a photo documenting him.

As the settlement of Har Bracha and the outpost of Sneh Yaakov (Givat Ronen) were established nearby, the military forbids the family to enter their land without prior coordination. This year, the military allowed them a single day for harvesting, on 25 October 2020. When they got to the first plot, they discovered settlers had already harvested 30 of the 45 trees. The remaining 15 yielded about 30 kilos of olives. They also found that settlers had set up a fence around the second plot to block their access to it.   

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

At around 9:00 A.M., I arrived at my plot with my two sons, Yazan (16) and Muhammad (13), and saw eight soldiers there. One of them asked me, in good Arabic, if I had the deed for the land. I answered that I didn't have the papers, but that my brothers and I own the land. He said the land belongs to a friend of his from Givat Ronen. After I told him that wasn’t true, he pointed to the northern part of the plot and said we weren't allowed to go beyond the road.

We have 45 olive trees on that land, as well as two houses the family has owned since the 1970s – long before the settlements were built. In the second plot, south of there, we have 50 olive trees. I was surprised to find that settlers put up a barbed wire fence around it.

The soldiers said we weren't allowed into the second plot or into part of the first plot, so we could only harvest 15 trees, five or six of which barely had olives on them.

We worked until 3:00 P.M. and picked about 30 kilos of olives, which are enough for about 10 liters of oil. I photographed the trees with the broken branches and we went home. Before the second intifada broke out, we would extract about 20 jerricans of oil from the two plots (more than 200 kilos of olives). Now we're supposed to get even more, because the older the trees, the more fruit they bear.


Burin, Nablus District: Israeli settlers stone homes, escorted by soldiers who fire tear gas at residents; child faints from inhalation

On Friday, 9 October 2020, at around 6:00 P.M., about 20 settlers arrived at the northeastern neighborhood of Burin, a village in Nablus District. They spread out in the area and some of them started throwing stones at the home of the ‘Eid family, where Ibrahim (50) and Ghadah (46) live with their nine children ranging in age from 7 to 19. Five soldiers escorting the settlers hurled stun grenades and fired tear gas canisters at neighbors who came to the family’s defense.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i on 20 October 2020, ‘Ali ‘Eid (18) described the incident:

I was reading a book in my room when I heard noises outside, behind the house. I went down to the first floor and turned on the screen that’s connected to the security cameras we installed on the roof. Meanwhile, I heard stones landing in our yard. I saw about three settlers throwing stones at our house.

I called out to my mother and sisters and we started closing the windows, because we were afraid the stones and tear gas would get in. I went up to the second floor and before I managed to close the windows, a stone ripped through one of the window screens and landed inside. Luckily, I wasn’t hit.

I went back down to the first floor and watched what was happening outside on the security cameras. Stones were raining down on our yard. Slowly, more and more settlers arrived, most of them wearing masks. There were several soldiers with them. The soldiers tried a little to push them away, but they also threw stun grenades and fired tear gas canisters at neighbors who gathered around our house to protect us.

On the cameras, I saw my father coming home with my two brothers, ‘Osama (19) and Muhammad (7). He drove into our garage and parked there. The soldiers threw more and more stun grenades at our house, and even though we closed all the windows, the gas still got in. I went and got onions and alcohol to make it easier for us all to breathe.

Ibrahim ‘Eid left his sons in the garage, where he assumed they would be protected from the attack. Yet tear gas started seeping in and they found it hard to breathe. ‘Osama phoned his mother for help.

In a testimony he gave on 20 October 2020, ‘Osama ‘Eid said:

I was out with my father and younger brother Muhammad (7) when people from the village called and told us our home was under attack. We jumped in the car and went home. When we got there, we saw about ten settlers attacking the house with stones. They were throwing stones at the entrance. My father drove into the garage and asked us to stay there so we wouldn’t get hurt. He wanted to go inside and check on my mother and other brothers.

The garage has no windows or light, so I turned on the flashlight on my father’s cellphone, which he left in the car. Muhammad and I heard stun grenades hit the garage walls and land nearby. The gas slowly started seeping in, and it became hard to breathe. Muhammad started crying and said, “I don’t want to die.”

I called my mom and told her we might die from the tear gas, because the garage door doesn’t open from the inside. I asked her to send help. Meanwhile, Muhammad passed out. I didn’t know what to do. I took a tool that was lying there and tried to make a hole in the wall to let some air in, but it didn’t work. I felt that I was dying. I’ve never felt that way before, like I really couldn’t breathe. About five minutes later, some guys from the village opened the door, let us out and took us to the village fire station, where we were given oxygen.

It was the most violent attack I’ve been through since we moved to this house seven years ago.

About 15 minutes later, the settlers moved a few dozen meters away from the ‘Eid family’s home. When they finally left the village, at around 9:00 P.M., they left behind a yard full of stones and a broken projector on the ‘Eids’ roof.

The next day, Saturday, at around 5:30 P.M., about 20 settlers arrived at the eastern part of the village. This time, they stoned the Ziben family’s home, which lies about 800 meters from the ‘Eid home. Four of them tried to break in, but about 20 village residents arrived and the settlers drew back some 50 meters, towards a neighborhing house under construction that also belongs to the ‘Eid family. At the same time, a military jeep arrived. Several soldiers got out and started firing tear gas canisters at the residents. The soldiers allowed the settlers to damage the house under construction and break four of its windows without intervening.

June 2020


Burin, Nablus District: Settlers torched trees and threw stones at house under construction. Soldiers fired tear gas and "rubber" bullets and impeded efforts to extinguish the fire

On Thursday afternoon, 18 June 2020, Palestinian youths set fire to a field of thorns that lies between the eastern neighborhood of the village of Burin and the settlement outpost of Sneh Ya’akov (Giv’at Ronen). The settlers arrived to extinguish the fire and an argument ensued between them and the youths. The outpost was established about a kilometer from Burin in 1999.

Later that day, at about 4:00 P.M., some ten masked settlers arrived at the northeastern neighborhood of the village. They began to throw stones at a house under construction, broke its water pipes and set fire to olive and almond groves nearby. Residents came out to defend their houses and land, and a confrontation ensued. Shortly after, about ten soldiers arrived and began firing tear-gas canisters and rubber-coated metal bullets at the residents. They also prevented some residents from going to their land to put out the fire. A Palestinian Civil Defense fire truck could not reach the groves due to the clashes.

At dusk, after the incident was over, the firefighters reached the farmland and helped the residents put out the fire.

Village resident Bashir Zein (64), who owns one of the torched groves, heard about the arson from his son. In a testimony he gave the day after the incident to B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, he related:

Our family has 25 dunams in the area, five of which I inherited from my grandfather. There are 40 olive and almond trees on our plot, which is fenced in by sabra bushes in every direction. When they told me my trees were on fire, I came right away. But the soldiers wouldn’t let me near and keep telling me “Go back! Go back!”. I tried to explain that I only wanted to put out the fire, but they insisted and wouldn’t let me near.

I saw about ten settlers go over to a house under construction right next to my plot, and start breaking the brick walls. The soldiers let them do it and didn’t intervene. Every time residents of the neighborhood approached the settlers, the soldiers fired rubber bullets at them. This went on until sundown, and then the settlers headed towards the outpost of Giv’at Ronen.

Out of about 40 trees on my plot, there are only 16 left. In my father’s plot, about 50 almond and olive trees burned down and only one remains. My son Khaled and I tried to put out the fire that was still burning in the branches of some trees. 

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.

March 2020


Burin: Settlers attack home; soldiers protect them and fire tear gas at residents

Some 10 settlers, accompanied by about five soldiers, damaged a house under construction owned by Muntasser Mansur, on the eastern side of the village. The settlers vandalized three exterior walls of the house, broke sewage pipes and scattered cement sacks - all under the protection of soldiers, who fired tear-gas canisters at residents trying to protect the house. The damage caused by the settlers was estimated at 2,000 NIS (~560 USD).

 Mansur’s house has been attacked and damaged by settlers several times. The Civil Administration has tried to prevent Mansur from building it and has given him several stop-work injunctions, although the house lies in Area B, where the Palestinian Authority holds planning jurisdiction and has given Mansur a building permit.

Burin, Nablus District, 10 March 2020: Settlers attack home; soldiers protect them and fire tear gas at residents.


Burin: Settlers attack home at edge of village, soldiers open live fire at occupants

On Saturday, 7 March 2020, at around midday, ‘Ali ‘Eid (16) and his brother Osama (20) were at home on the eastern side of the village. Suddenly, about eight settlers started throwing stones at the house, shattering two windows and a security camera. The home is a target as it lies on the outskirts of the village, about a kilometer from the settlement of Har Bracha and the outpost of Giv’at Sneh Ya’akov, and about two kilometers from the settlement of Yitzhar. When the settlers started to withdraw, Ali opened a window to see what was going on. In response, a soldier fired a stun grenade at him. Village residents then gathered around the house to check on ‘Ali and his brother. The two climbed up to the roof to reassure the residents they weren't injured. When the soldiers noticed them, they began firing live rounds at them, and also fired tear-gas canisters and stun grenades at the residents gathered around the house. ‘Ali and his brother went back into the house, fortunately unharmed. 

Burin, 7 March 2020: Settlers attack home at edge of village, soldiers open live fire at occupants

Burin, 7 March 2020: Settlers attack home at edge of village, soldiers open live fire at occupants.


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