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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.

December 2020

28
A shattered window in 'Ali Dawabsheh's car, Huwarah junction, 28 Dec. 2020. Photo by Ali Dawabsheh
A shattered window in 'Ali Dawabsheh's car, Huwarah junction, 28 Dec. 2020. Photo by Ali Dawabsheh

Huwarah Junction, Nablus District: Settlers block road, throw stones and break car window

On 28 December 2020, at around 8:30 P.M., ‘Ali Dawabsheh (33), a married father of three from the village of Duma in Nablus District, was driving home with two relatives. When the car neared the Huwarah (Yitzhar) Junction, the three saw dozens of settlers blocking the road, with dozens of soldiers and Border Police officers guarding them. The settlers threw stones at Dawabsheh’s car and smashed its right rear window. Dawabsheh stopped the car and got out, but a Border Police officer ordered him to get back in. He obeyed, and then the settlers surrounded his car and started kicking it until the security forces drove them away, at which point Dawabsheh drove home.

The next day, Dawabsheh replaced the window at a cost of 500 shekels (~155 USD).

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, ‘Ali Dawabsheh recounted the settlers’ attack on his car:  

On Monday, 28 December 2020, at around 8:30 P.M., I was driving home from Tulkarm with my two cousins, Saed (40) and Muhammad (31). When we got to Route 60 (near Huwarah/Jit) and were about 30 to 50 meters from the junction, I suddenly saw about 40 settlers blocking the road. There were also about 25 to 30 soldiers and Border Police officers there.

I was nervous and didn’t know what to do. Settlers who were on the right side of the road threw stones at my car and smashed the right rear window. Luckily, Muhammad, who was in back, was lying on the backseat with his head tilted left, otherwise he would have been badly injured.

I got out of the car, and one of the Border Police officers ordered me to get back in. I said to him, “Did you see what they did?” He answered in good Arabic, “It’s good that it ended that way and nothing else happened.” Then he ordered me to get back in the car. I did what he said, and then the settlers, who had gathered around the car, started kicking it. The soldiers made them move away and surrounded the car, and one of the police officers motioned me to drive on. Even though the soldiers were there, the settlers kicked the car a few more times until I got to the Huwarah Junction road, and from there continued to Huwarah.  

I stopped by the roadside and we cleared the shattered glass from the car. Muhammad’s clothes were covered in glass. Thank God no one was hurt. Then we drove on home to Duma.

The soldiers didn’t call the police and didn’t refer me to file a complaint. It all happened before their very eyes, and they didn’t lift a finger.

 

November 2020

23
Mustafa Ramadan’s car after settlers attacked it at the Huwarah Junction, 23 Nov. 2020. Photo by Mustafa Ramadan
Mustafa Ramadan’s car after settlers attacked it at the Huwarah Junction, 23 Nov. 2020. Photo by Mustafa Ramadan

Huwarah Junction, Nablus District: Settlers stop Palestinian car and violently assault passengers, then move on to nearest intersection and stone other cars

On Monday afternoon, 23 November 2020, Yusef Mar’i (25) from Tell was driving towards the Huwarah intersection on his way to Ramallah. With him were his friend Mustafa Ramadan (44) in the passenger seat and another friend in the backseat. When the car was about 500 meters from the intersection, settlers got out of three vehicles parked by the roadside, started stoning the car and tried to assault the passengers. They smashed the windshield, a headlight and the window on the driver’s side. One of the stones hit Mar’i in the shoulder.  

Mar’i managed to drive on for about 50 meters and then stopped, and Ramadan replaced him at the wheel. They continued towards the Huwarah intersection, where they saw police officers dealing with a car accident. Mar’i told the officers what had happened, and they asked paramedics there to treat Mar’I’s shoulder. Then a Red Crescent ambulance took him to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus. The friend who was sitting in the backseat went with him. The police officers suggested that Mustafa Ramadan, who stayed in the car, file a complaint at the Ariel police station, but he saw no point in doing so.

Meanwhile, the assailants also arrived at the scene of the accident and started throwing stones at Palestinian cars waiting in the traffic jam. Soldiers arrived and held them back.

Ramadan went to Rafidia Hospital and joined his friends. After they were checked and given first aid, the three went home. Repairing the damaged car cost 1,200 shekels (~375 USD).

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, Yusef Mar’i described the attack:

I was driving to Ramallah with two friends. When we neared the Huwarah intersection, I saw three or four cars with Israeli license plates parked on the left side of the road. When we were about 15 or 20 meters from them, a kid who looked 15 at most suddenly emerged between them with a stone in each hand. He threw the stones at our car and came round in front of it.

I was driving slowly, no more than 50 kilometers an hour, but had to stop so I wouldn’t run him over. Then, more than 15 settlers got out of the other cars and started throwing stones at us. One stone hit the windshield and cracked it, and another shattered my window and hit me in the shoulder.

I tried to reverse the car, but another settler’s car stopped behind me and four or five settlers got out. I tried to get out to defend myself, but one of the settlers slammed the door shut, grabbed me by the neck through the window and started shoving me. Other settlers tried to open the back door.

I felt dizzy. I could barely take it. They were acting like wild animals. I felt we’d fallen into a trap. They were screaming and swearing and ordered us, in Hebrew and Arabic, to get out of the car.

I barely managed to restart the car. I drove quickly and the settlers drew back a little. After driving for several hundred meters, I stopped again because I couldn’t drive anymore. I asked Mustafa to take the wheel. Meanwhile, the settlers started running towards us.

Mustafa Ramadan, a father of two from Tell, described what happened after he started driving:

I drove on for about 200 meters and when we neared the Yitzhar/Huwarah square, we saw two Israeli cars that had been in an accident. There were a police car and an ambulance there.

I drove up to them and told an officer that settlers had attacked us and that one of us was injured. He motioned us to stop and called one of the paramedics over. The paramedic tried to calm Yusef down. He was exhausted and had cramps in the left side of his body, his arm and his leg. I was worried about him. Then a Red Crescent ambulance came and took him to hospital.

Meanwhile, the settlers arrived and started throwing stones at Palestinian cars that had stopped because of the accident. They did it in front of police officers and soldiers, and hit several cars.

I stayed in the car until the settlers moved away. The officers asked my friend and me for our details and took down our account of what happened. They asked the three of us to go to the Ariel police station to file a complaint, but we didn’t because we saw no point.

I went to hospital to check on my friends, and later we all went home. A few days later, I took the car to be repaired. It cost us 1,200 shekels: the windshield, the window on the driver’s side, a headlight and paint and shield repairs where the stones left marks.

6

Huwarah, Nablus District: Settlers steal sacks of olives and farming equipment from a grove

Hussein ‘Odeh (54), a father of six, owns an olive grove southeast of Huwarah, that is located between Road 60 and the army base, which is located about a kilometer from the road. On Friday morning, 6 November 2020, a farmer who was working on ‘Odeh’s land called him and told him that settlers had stolen the olive sacks and equipment left in the grove the day before - two ladders, 5 or 6 tarpaulin sheets, a small camping stove, and cups for coffee and tea.

About 120 20-year-old trees grow in ‘Odeh’s family grove. The Israeli military allows him access to it only during the plowing and harvest seasons. This year, the military gave ‘Odeh three days to harvest, from 3 to 6 November 2020. When he came to his plot on the last day of harvest, he discovered ATV tire tracks. About 100 kg of olives harvested the days before were stolen. ‘Odeh estimates that the oil extracted from the stolen olive was expected to sell for about 1,000 NIS (~305 USD). He reported the theft to the Huwarah municipality.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, Hussein spoke about the theft of his crop and farming equipment by settlers:

On the harvest days, I tend to come to the land several times a day to oversee a few residents who work in my plot. At the end of the day, I check the crop and then take the harvested olives and leave the ladders and other equipment in the grove for the next harvest day. The farmers usually leave the equipment in the grove during the harvest because there’s no point in taking everything home each day and then bringing it back in the morning. It takes up time and effort.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, I took the crop home with me. But on Thursday, I couldn’t come to the grove, so the harvested crop stayed there along with the equipment: two ladders, 5 or 6 tarpaulin sheets, a small camping stove, and cups for coffee and tea. The next day, Friday, 6 November 2020, was supposed to be the last harvest day in the plot, but when my worker got there in the morning, he discovered the theft. I drove over there immediately and saw ATV tire tracks all over the plot – it looked like someone had driven around there with an ATV going back and forth. This is the first time something like this has happened to me since I bought this plot 11 years ago. We had to buy new ladders and tarpaulin sheets to finish the olive harvest.

There’s a military base close to the plot, so no one but the settlers could have done something like this. The military lets the settlers do whatever they want. During the harvest, I came across a military jeep that was standing near the plot. The soldiers asked me what I was doing there, and I told them I was the landowner and I was working it. It repeated itself about four times until they got used to seeing me there.

October 2020

7
Soldiers accompanying settlers who attacked harvesters in Huwarah, 7 Oct. 2020. Photo by Dina Chizhik, B’Tselem.
Soldiers accompanying settlers who attacked harvesters in Huwarah, 7 Oct. 2020. Photo by Dina Chizhik, B’Tselem.

Huwarah, Nablus District: Dozens of settlers attack residents and volunteers harvesting olives. Soldiers hurl stun grenades and tear gas canisters at the victims instead of protecting them.

On Wednesday afternoon, 7 October 2020, about 40 residents of Huwarah went with Israeli and foreign volunteers to harvest olives in a grove owned by farmer Saba’ ‘Odeh on the southwestern side of the village. The plot is designated part of Area C.

Out of 500 olive trees in the grove, only 150 of yield fruit as settlers vandalized and burned the rest. After the harvesters started working, five settlers suddenly appeared, escorted by about seven soldiers. The settlers confronted the residents and demanded they leave.

A few minutes later, dozens of settlers arrived, some of them wearing masks, also escorted by dozens of soldiers. The settlers divided into groups and began throwing stones at the harvesters while the soldiers hurled stun grenades and tear gas canisters at the harvesters and ordered them to leave.

At one point, ‘Odeh was asking soldiers to remove the settlers when a soldier and a settler pounced on him, knocking him to the ground, and the settlers continued throwing stones at him.

Two village residents were injured by stones and taken to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus, where they were treated and discharged.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, Jihad ‘Odeh (53), a father of six, a carpenter and a member of the village council, described the attack:

At around 11:00 A.M., I went to Saba’ Odeh’s land with some volunteers. While we were working, I saw about five settlers with white clothes and cameras. Because of the cameras I thought they were reporters, but then I realized they were settlers. They ordered me and the guy who was harvesting with me to leave. I told them in Arabic, “I’m picking olives on my land.”

One of them asked me if I had a permit. I told him, “We don’t need a permit because we’re on our land. And you, what are you doing here?” He answered, “You’re looking for trouble.” I said, “You’re the one looking for trouble. Get lost.” He said, “All this mess over a few olives?”

At that point, another 30 or so settlers arrived. They had masks on and looked young, in their twenties. They started throwing stones at us. There were about 20 soldiers with them.

We tried to get away and find cover, but the settlers came after us and kept throwing stones. The soldiers didn’t do a thing except order us to leave and yell at us, as if we were the ones who’d attacked the settlers.

At the same time, I saw Saba’, the landowner, trying to talk to the soldiers and asking them to remove the settlers from the area until everyone calmed down. The settlers were throwing stones at him and the soldiers didn’t even try to protect him. One of the soldiers and a settler pushed Saba’ to the ground. That wasn’t enough for about seven other settlers, who kept on throwing stones at him.

I didn’t know what to do. One of the residents called out to me and said, “They’ll kill you. Get out of here quickly.” The settlers were like wolves. I tried to run away, but a stone hit me in the left leg and I fell over. My cellphone fell and broke. One of the settlers was holding a large stone and was about to throw it at my head, but a soldier stopped him. He could have killed me.

One guy managed to lift me up and help me get away. Meanwhile, the soldiers started throwing tear gas canisters and stun grenades at the harvesters to make them leave. The settlers split up into groups of seven or eight, and each group chased several harvesters until they drove us all out.

I was taken to a safe place and from there driven by ambulance to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus. They X-rayed me and found only bruises, but the pain still hasn’t gone away.

3
Murad a-Najar, after settlers attacked him during surveying work he did in Huwarah. Photo by the a-Najar family
Murad a-Najar, after settlers attacked him during surveying work he did in Huwarah. Photo by the a-Najar family

Huwarah, Nablus District: Settlers stone Palestinian surveyors working near village

On 11 August 2020, settlers attacked two Palestinian engineers who were measuring land west of Huwarah as part of a survey of the village’s registered land. On Saturday morning, 3 October 2020, settlers again attacked surveyors working on the project.  

When Murad a-Najar (47) and two other surveyors arrived at the location they’d been asked to measure, they immediately noticed settlers running towards them from the direction of the settlement of Yitzhar. The three men grabbed their equipment and ran away, with the settlers chasing after them and throwing stones. One of the stones hit a-Najar in the back and he fell to the ground, but he managed to get up and run towards homes in the village. At that point, the settlers drew back. The two other surveyors, who reached the village before a-Najar, notified the village council head and he arrived with several residents.

A-Najar was taken to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus, where he was examined and X-rayed. He was given painkillers and discharged.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i on 7 October 2020, Murad a-Najar (47), a father of six from Burin, described the attack:

I own a company that provides surveying and engineering services. On Saturday, at around 10:30 A.M., I went with two other surveyors to measure land in the western part of Huwarah, about 500 meters away from the village homes and 700 meters from the settlement of Yitzhar.  

Suddenly, about seven settlers came running towards us from the direction of Yitzhar. I told the other two surveyors that we had to run for it. They grabbed the equipment and started running, and I followed behind them. The settlers chased us and shouted something in Hebrew. I didn’t understand what they were saying. They started throwing stones at us and one of them hit me in the back. I fell over. It was very painful, but I had to get up and keep running because if they’d caught me, they would’ve kept throwing stones and not let me go.

I kept running until I got away from them and reached the village homes.

September 2020

6

Huwarah, Nablus District: Settlers invade Palestinian family’s yard and smash windows and slash tires of two cars

On 6 Sep. 2020, at around 3:00 A.M., eight settlers were recorded on security cameras as they vandalized cars at the rear parking lot of the S’adeh family home in the western neighborhood of Huwarah. The settlers punctured three tires and smashed the windshield and rear window of the family’s car and another vehicle parked in front of their home.

On 6 September 2020, at around 3:30 A.M., eight settlers were captured on security cameras vandalizing cars in the S’adeh family’s yard in the western neighborhood of Huwarah. The settlers punctured three tires and smashed the windshield and rear window of the family’s car and of another vehicle parked out front.

In a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i on 6 September 2020, Salam S’adeh (44), a mother of five, recounted:

I was woken by sounds outside. I got out of bed in our bedroom, which is on the second floor, and went out to the balcony overlooking the yard. I saw a group of settlers there but when I came out, they ran away.

After they left, I went down to the first floor and looked out the windows to make sure they hadn’t burned anything. When I saw everything was okay, I checked on the children and went back to bed. I didn’t wake my husband or my eldest son, Qaisar, because they both had to get up early for work. I tried to go back to sleep, but I was too worried the settlers would come back. Every time I fell asleep, I woke up again and looked outside to make sure they hadn’t returned.

At around 5:00 A.M., after I woke my husband up to get ready for work, I told him what had happened. We went outside and found the windshield and rear window of our car smashed. There were stones scattered on the ground. There was also damage to the chassis.
 
Qaisar and I checked the security camera footage and saw a recording of eight settlers entering the yard. One settler punctured three of the car’s tires and then some others threw stones at the car and ran away. A neighbor’s car was parked out front and they smashed its windshield and rear window, too.  

My husband called the village council in the morning and notified them, but no one came.

I can’t believe this happened to us. It’s the first time settlers have attacked us. I keep thinking they could have easily burned down our car or our house! I can’t stop thinking about the Dawabsheh family the settlers firebombed five years ago in the village of Duma. They wiped out an entire family: a mother, father and son. Only one child survived.

Right now, the most important thing is that we emerged safe and sound, and I don’t care about anything else. You can be compensated for damage, but not for losing someone.

August 2020

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Mustafa Masri who was injured fleeing from settlers who chased and shot at him, Huwarah, 11 Aug. 2020. Photo: Hassan Qadus.
Mustafa Masri who was injured fleeing from settlers who chased and shot at him, Huwarah, 11 Aug. 2020. Photo: Hassan Qadus.

Huwarah, Nablus District: Settlers chase Palestinian surveyors, shoot in the air and throw stones at them

On Tuesday morning, 11 August 2020, at around 9:00 A.M., two Palestinian engineers from the al-‘Amru Engineering Consulting company measured land in the western part of Huwarah as part of a survey of the village’s registered land. The two, Mustafa Masri (30) and Hassan Qadus (32), live in the nearby village of Burin. They then moved on to a nearby plot, which lies about 50 meters from the security road leading to the settlement of Yitzhar. The settlement was established in 1983 on land belonging to Huwarah and neighboring villages.

At around midday, the two surveyors noticed a white jeep speeding towards them from the direction of Yitzhar. The jeep stopped on the road about 100 meters away from them and four settlers got out. One was carrying an M-16 rifle. Fearing an attack, the two started running towards Huwarah. The settlers gave chase, firing in the air, throwing stones at them, swearing at them and calling them to stop. Several stones hit Masri and he fell over, but the two managed to escape.

When they reached a swimming pool on the outskirts of Huwarah, the pool staff called an ambulance for Masri, who was suffering severe pain in his leg and could barely stand. He was taken to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus, where he was treated and discharged.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, Mustafa Masri described the settlers’ attack:

Around midday, Hassan Qadus and I were measuring a plot when a white jeep suddenly drove up from the direction of the security road that leads to Yitzhar. I was standing by the road, about 50 meters from a military watchtower and about 100 meters from a group of soldiers.

The jeep stopped on the road and four settlers jumped out and started shouting. I feared for our measuring equipment, because settlers have attacked surveyors before and the device we use costs about 85,000 shekels (~25,000 USD). When I saw them running and yelling, I told Hassan, “Take the device and try to get away. Run and don’t look back.”

The settlers started chasing me and then I heard two shots. I heard the bullets hitting stones and the stones exploding. I can still hear the sound ringing in my ears as if it’s happening right now. I dropped to the ground and lay flat so I wouldn’t get hit. Hassan heard the shots, and he stopped and turned around because he was afraid I’d been hurt. I told him, “Run, I’m right behind you, hurry.”

I took a different route to draw the settlers away from Hassan and the equipment. I ran along a rocky path between hills and boulders, but they kept throwing stones at me. Some of the stones hit me in the left arm and leg. I had to keep going. I knew that if the settlers caught me, they might kill me. They were very agitated.

When I got to a stretch of uneven land, I stumbled and fell over. The settlers threw stones at me again, but I managed to get up and run away. I ran until I reached a swimming pool in Huwarah. I could hardly breathe, I was so terrified and exhausted. The pool staff helped me, and only then I noticed that my knees were bleeding. I was in shock. I wanted to call Hassan but couldn’t find my phone. I must have dropped it while I was running. After that, Hassan came to the pool, too, and reassured me, “Don’t worry, I made it safely with the equipment.”

I couldn’t stand up. I had terrible pain in my legs, arm and lower back. The staff called an ambulance that took me to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus.

March 2020

15

Huwarah: Settlers damage heavy equipment

Shortly after midnight on 15 March 2020, about ten settlers went into a lot in the southern part of the village of Huwarah, where heavy equipment belonging to ‘Abdallah ‘Odeh, a local resident, was parked. The settlement of Yitzhar is located about a kilometer away. The settlers broke windows and slashed the tires of 12 bulldozers and other heavy machinery, causing an estimated 40,000 NIS (~11,170 USD) worth of damage.

Huwarah, Nablus District, 15 March 2020: Settlers damage heavy equipment.

11

Huwarah: With military protection, settlers throw stones at Palestinian homes, breaking windows

On Wednesday, 11 March 2020, soldiers closed the Huwarah checkpoint and a section of Route 60 (the Yitzhar Road) for Palestinian traffic for about two hours starting at 11:00 A.M. After the closure, about 25 settlers gathered in the traffic circle at the turn-off into Yitzhar, with a military escort. The settlers threw stones at village houses near the area, breaking windows of one house and of three parked cars.

Huwarah, Nablus District, 11 March 2020: With military protection, settlers throw stones at Palestinian homes, breaking windows.

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