Wadi a-Rahim, South Hebron Hills: Settlers beat local residents, fire in the air and try to take over their lands
On the morning of 18 December 2020, Muhammad al-Harini, 54, a father of seven from Yatta, was grazing his flock with his father, Khalil, 78, who lives in the community of Wadi a-Rahim in the South Hebron Hills, on family land adjacent to the community’s home. The land stretches over some 400 dunams.
While the two were out in the pastureland, about 20 settlers appeared, some with firearms, others with bats. They demanded the two leave the area and threatened them. One of the settlers pushed Khalil al-Harini, knocking him over. His son Muhammad called B’Tselem’s field researcher, who alerted the police. Moments later, a military vehicle, a police car and a Civil Administration officer arrived. The latter told both the landowners and the settlers they were not permitted at the site and everyone left.
The next morning, Muhammad al-Harini returned to the family land with four other relatives to plow. Having plowed about 20 dunams, they saw about 20 settlers approaching and decided to leave and return to the community to avoid a dangerous encounter.
Driving away the locals was not enough for the settlers who followed them up to a distance of about 20 meters from the community’s homes. The family blocked their path. The settlers threatened them, attacked four community residents, injuring one, a 17-year-old boy, in the ear with a stone. One settler fired several shots. Fortunately, no one was hurt. The frightened family members called B’Tselem’s researcher again. He alerted the police, which arrived a few minutes later, with a military jeep escort. The settlers then ran off.
A police officer took a statement from the boy who had been injured, and his relatives drove him to Abu al-Hassan Hospital in Yatta, where he was diagnosed with an injury to the auditory canal and ossicle.
In a testimony he gave B'Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash, Muhammad al-Harini spoke about the second settler attack on his family:
On Saturday 19 December 2020, I went to our land, which is near the houses in the community, with my brother ‘Amer, 38, and his three sons, Mahmoud, 17, ‘Ali, 20, and Saqer, 19, to plow the fields. We had plowed about 20 dunams and then saw settlers heading towards us. We didn’t want an altercation, so we went back to the family home in the community.
The settlers followed us up to the houses and stopped at a distance of about 20 meters. They started threatening us and tried to advance further. We went out and tried to block them. There were more than 20 settlers there with handguns, rifles, bats and crowbars. I saw my nephew, ‘Ali, 20, filming the incident on his phone. A settler approached him and hit him in the face with his handgun. Mahmoud, 17, tried to break them up, and the same settler hit him in the left ear with a stone he had in his other hand. Mahmoud’s ear started bleeding and he lost his balance.
My brother ‘Amer and I went over to them, and then one of the settlers kicked me in the back and another threw a stone that hit me in the arm. Another settler kicked ‘Amer in the chest and knee. We fought them for about half an hour, throwing stones at them to drive them off. One of the settlers fired about ten shots with his handgun. I called Nasser Nawaj’ah from B'Tselem and asked him to call the police, and a few minutes later some military vehicles and a police car arrived. That’s when the settlers ran off.
We went to our land. The police officers and soldiers were there, and a settler, whom we know by the name of Ya’aKov, came with another female settler. The officers spoke with them and told us to go home. Ya’aKov brought a tractor driver with him who started plowing the same plot we had plowed that morning. He was filming the tractor as it was plowing. The officers and soldiers did nothing.
Mahmoud’s ear was hurting, and after a police officer took his statement, I drove him to the Abu al-Hassan government hospital in Yatta. He was examined and x-rayed and it turned out his auditory canal and nerve had been hurt. The doctor cleaned the blood from his ear and referred him to an ear, nose and throat specialist. He has been seeing a specialist in Yatta ever since.
On Sunday, 21 December 2020, the settler Ya’aKov, came to our land in an ATV and deliberately drove over plowed fields we’d already planted in. We saw him from inside our homes, but we chose not to get into an altercation with the settlers. They are armed criminals who are backed up by the military and police which arrested none of them when they attacked us.
The settlement of Susiya was established in 1983 1.5 kilometers southeast of Wadi a-Rahim.
Kafr Malik, Ramallah District: Palestinians protesting against outpost driven out with gunfire by settlers and dispersed with stun grenades and tear gas by soldiers
On 18 December 2020, at around 11:00 A.M., about 60 residents of Kafr Malik held a demonstration against a new outpost that settlers set up in early November 2020 near the community of Ras a-Tin, which lies southeast of the village. The outpost occupants have been attacking and harassing farmers and shepherds in the area and scaring them off the land. The residents hold weekly protests in the area. On 4 December 2020, soldiers fatally shot ‘Ali Abu ‘Alia (14), while he watched a protest against the same outpost near his village, al-Mughayir.
This time, the residents gathered at a farm near Ras a-Tin and started marching towards the outpost, which lies about two kilometers away. Within minutes, two vehicles arrived and about eight masked settlers got out, carrying clubs. One of them fired several gunshots at the protesters.
The residents dispersed and moved away. At that point, a military jeep drove up and three soldiers got out. They tried to separate the settlers from the residents, but did not detain the settler who had fired the shots, although they saw him walking around with his gun drawn and residents informed them that he had fired at them.
Meanwhile, two other vehicles drew up with eight more settlers, who had two large dogs with them. Two of the settlers grabbed the dogs by the leash and ran towards the protesters, making threatening motions, while the soldiers tried to block their path. Several residents began throwing stones at the settlers to fend off the dogs. Later on, four other military jeeps drove up. Soldiers got out and started hurling stun grenades and firing tear gas canisters at the residents, until they drove them all out around midday.
In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, Yusef Ka’abneh (28), a married father of four who owns a farm in the Ras a-Tin area, described the protest and the settlers’ attack:
Since a settler set up an outpost about two kilometers from our homes, he and his friends have been harassing us, grazing their flocks on our land and provoking us. He wears a skullcap (kippah) and I think he’s armed. A gang of criminals live with him – about eight to ten young guys in their twenties.
On the morning of 18 December 2020, I was grazing my flock about two kilometers from my farm when I saw the weekly protest procession heading there. I left the flock to graze and went quickly back to the farm, because I was afraid a confrontation would develop with the settlers and that my family would get hurt. The protesters were holding signs and waving Palestinian flags. Meanwhile, I saw two cars set out from the outpost in our direction. About eight settlers got out of it, holding clubs, and walked over until they were about 30 or 40 meters away from us. Three of them hid behind our tractor and one of them drew a gun, held it in both hands and started firing shot after shot. Thank God he didn’t hit anyone. Everyone ran and hid the moment the shooting started.
A few minutes later, soldiers showed up. They always come quickly to protect the settlers. The soldiers stood between us and the settlers. The settler was still holding his gun and didn’t seem to fear the soldiers. His friends tried to go round them and attack the protesters. Meanwhile, more settlers showed up, two of them leading large, scary dogs. They tried to chase the protesters and set their dogs on them, and the soldiers tried unsuccessfully to keep them away.
After another few minutes, back-up forces arrived and the soldiers started firing tear gas canisters at the protesters, who scattered quickly. Luckily, the wind was blowing in the opposite direction, so the gas didn’t reach my family and me. Meanwhile, more and more settlers kept arriving, and the military didn’t block their way.
Since that incident, we’ve been even more afraid of the settlers. We’re scared they’ll attack us at any time and we’re always on edge. These settlers are violent and extreme. They’ve attacked people in the area many times. I pray that Allah will protect us from their evil.