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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

September 2020

7

Israeli soldiers guard settler entering Khirbet a-Tuba allegedly looking for stolen sheep

On the night of 7 Sep. 2020, about ten settlers came with an escort of soldiers to the Palestinian community of Khirbet a-Tuba in the South Hebron Hills to allegedly search for stolen sheep. One of the settlers entered the community’s territory guarded by soldiers and roamed around as he pleased, until leaving without finding anything.

The settlement of Ma’on was established in 2001 about a kilometer from the community of Khirbet a-Tuba.

August 2020

1

Even on a high holiday: Settlers attack Abu Shamsiyeh family in Tel-Rumeidah, central Hebron

 

On Saturday, 1 August 2020, 'Imad (50) and Fayzeh (46) Abu Shamsiyeh’s married children, ‘Awni (21) and Madlyn (22), paid a festive visit to their parents to mark the second day of ‘Eid al-Fitr. They came with their spouses and children to the family home, which lies in the neighborhood of Tel Rumeidah in central Hebron.  

At around midday, Marwa Abu Shamsiyeh (16) took her niece Rital (1.5) to the grocery store to buy sweets for all the children. On their way back, a group of about 10 young settlers between the ages of 10 and 15 began harassing the two girls. Marwa picked Rital up and kept walking home, at which point one of the teens grabbed her hair. The others then gathered around, kicking her, hitting her and spitting at her – and one even tried to snatch the toddler from her arms.

‘Awni, who was sitting by his parent’s house with a friend, heard his sister and niece screaming and rushed to their aid. He pushed the settler children to get them off the two girls. Only at that late stage did a soldier from the nearby Gilbert Checkpoint intervene: he ordered ‘Awni and his relatives to go home.

The family heard the commotion and Fayzeh, Salah (14) and Madlyn went outside. The same children started throwing stones and glass bottles at them, wounding Madlyn in the leg and Salah in the hand. Meanwhile, dozens of settlers gathered near the family home. Four soldiers arrived and tried to keep them at bay.

The family fled indoors, as several settlers climbed onto the roof of their home and others surrounded it. Given the rising tension, some 30 soldiers and Civil Administration officials arrived, as well as police officers in five vehicles. The security forces sent the settlers away but they remained nearby. About 15 minutes later, soldiers entered the family home and arrested ‘Awni. The settlers cheered as they drove him away to the police station in Kiryat Arba. Soldiers and settlers continued to linger around the house for about three hours.

One of the soldiers questioned Marwa, inside the house, about the incident. He then drove her, along with her mother, to the police station to file a complaint against the settlers. The police accused ‘Awni of assaulting the settlers and ordered him to pay 500 NIS (~148 USD). He refused and after the officers watched footage of the incident, they waived the payment. The three family members were released about three hours later.

In a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bari, Marwa Abu Shamsiyeh related what she underwent during the holiday:

At around 2:30 P.M., I took Rital to the grocery store to buy things for the kids. The store is at the top of the hill in our neighborhood opposite the settlement of Ramat Yishai. On our way home, I saw 15 or so settlers, about 10 to 15 years old, near the Gilbert checkpoint. A soldier was standing at the checkpoint. I got nervous, so I picked Rital up and kept walking home.

The settlers started doing impressions of my father, who has a limp. I ignored them and kept walking because I was afraid for Rital. Then one of them pulled my hair from behind. They surrounded me and started kicking me and hitting me. One of them tried to snatch Rital from my arms.

Rital started screaming and crying. I screamed, too, until my brother ‘Awni showed up. He started pushing the settlers to get them off me. The soldier by the checkpoint did nothing when the settlers attacked me, but when ‘Awni arrived he suddenly tried to get him away from the settlers and ordered us to leave.

 We tried to leave, but the settlers attacked us again. I ran home with Rital and told my mother what was going on. I asked her to go and help ‘Awni. My mother, Madlyn and Salah went outside and started yelling at the settlers. In the end, everyone came back inside.

Then, soldiers suddenly came into our house and arrested ‘Awni. After that, another soldier came and questioned me about what had happened. I told him the settlers had attacked me and tried to snatch Rital. Then a police officer came and said he’d take me to the police station in Kiryat Arba. My mother demanded to come along and he agreed.

They took us by jeep to the station and kept us waiting in the yard for about 15 minutes. A police officer led me into a room where they were holding ‘Awni in handcuffs, and then he took me to another room. He interrogated me for about half an hour while my mother waited outside.

‘Awni's interrogator told us we had to pay 500 shekels. My mother got angry and told the officers that the settlers were the ones who attacked us, and that we wanted to file a complaint against them. After we filed the complaint, the interrogator watched surveillance footage and saw that the settlers had attacked us. He agreed to release ‘Awni without a fine.

About three hours later, a jeep drove us back to a-Shuhada Street. We got home tired and upset because they ruined our holiday.

‘Awni Abu Shamsiyeh gave his account of the incident to field researcher Manal al-Ja’bari:

I was sitting with a friend on the street in front of our house. Suddenly, I heard my sister Marwa screaming. I ran over to her and saw about 15 settlers between the ages of 10 and 15 gathered around her. She was holding Rital and one of them was pulling at her hair. Another kid was trying to snatch Rital. The girls were screaming and crying, and Marwa was trying to hold onto Rital while they kicked her and spat at her.

I tried to get them off Marwa and Rital. Then a soldier who was sitting at the Gilbert checkpoint, who hadn't intervened when they attacked Marwa, ordered me to take the girls and get out of there.

We started walking home but the settlers attacked us again. Marwa ran home with Rital. A few minutes later, my mother came out of the house with Madlyn and Salah, and they started yelling at the settlers to make them leave. The settlers started throwing stones and glass bottles at us. They injured Madlyn in the leg and Salah in the hand. At that point, four soldiers showed up and tried to make the settlers leave.

In the end, my family and I managed to get inside and close the front door, but some settlers climbed up to our roof. About 50 others surrounded the house, shouting and trying to break in.

Then a lot of soldiers and police officers showed up and managed to remove the settlers. About 15 minutes later, soldiers came to the house and asked about me. They said they were going to arrest me. My mother tried to stop them, but they pushed her and took me outside. My mother, Marwa, Madlyn and Salah ran after me. The soldiers led me to the entrance to the nearby settlement of Ramat Yishai. There, they handcuffed me while the settlers tried to attack me again.

They drove me to the police station in Kiryat Arba, where I was interrogated and accused of hitting the settlers. I told them it wasn’t true and asked them to get the footage from the soldiers’ cameras to see what really happened. I said the settlers had attacked us.

The interrogator said he’d release me after I paid 500 shekels. But my mother, who had come to the station, refused and told the officers that the settlers were the ones who attacked us and that we wouldn't leave until we filed a complaint against them.

After they brought the camera footage, the interrogator watched it and decided to release me without a fine. After about three hours of interrogation and waiting in the heat in the station yard, a police jeep dropped us off at a-Shuhada Street. From there, we went home. I had bruises and wounds on my hand. We were tired and upset because the settlers ruined our holiday gathering.

Filmed by: تجمع المدافعين عن حقوق الانسان - Human Rights Defenders.

July 2020

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Mosque torched by settlers in Al Bireh, 27 July 2020. Photo: Iyad Hadad, B'Tselem
Mosque torched by settlers in Al Bireh, 27 July 2020. Photo: Iyad Hadad, B'Tselem

Al-Birah, Ramallah District: Settlers torch mosque

It was 3:00 A.M when the imam of Al-Bir wa al-Ehsan discovered his mosque was on fire. He rushed to call the Palestinian fire department, and firefighters arrived in about ten minutes. They put out the fire and stopped it from spreading to other parts of the mosque, but it had already burnt an interior wall and some furniture.  

The settlers who started the fire also sprayed an outer wall of the mosque with the inscription:  “Siege on Arabs, not on Jews! The Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people [Am Yisrael]!”.

The damage caused to the mosque is estimated at several thousand shekels.

At around 10:30 A.M, soldiers and police officers came to the mosque, searched it and examined the damage caused by the arson.

Mahmoud 'Abed (50) from al-Birah shared his impressions and feelings in a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad:

The incident has caused fear and concern in the neighborhood. People here feel that their property is at risk. The settlers are exploiting the circumstances created by the coronavirus to vandalize our property, because they know the streets are deserted and everyone is locked down at home.

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The 'Awad family's fence, vandalized by settlers. Turmusaya, 20 July 2020. Photo: courtesy of the witness
The 'Awad family's fence, vandalized by settlers. Turmusaya, 20 July 2020. Photo: courtesy of the witness

Turmusaya, Ramallah District: Settlers steal 150 fence posts from farmer, two years after uprooting his olive seedlings and vandalizing same fence

Salim Dar ‘Awad (68) from Turmusaya, a father of 14, owns four dunams of land [1 dunam = 1,000 sq. meters] about five kilometers east of Turmusaya. In 2018, settlers uprooted almost 100 olive seedlings he had planted. He immediately planted 150 new ones and put up a fence, about 300 meters long and two meters high, around the plot. This April, settlers vandalized the fence, stole some of the posts and broke tree branches. Dar ‘Awad repaired the damage and rebuilt the fence.

On the morning of 20 July 2020, at around 7:00 A.M., a shepherd from the village called Dar ‘Awad and told him that once again, parts of the fence had been vandalized and posts stolen. He drove to the plot right away and discovered that settlers had stolen 150 posts from the fence (which cost about 20 NIS or 8 USD each). He was relieved to find that they had spared the olive seedlings, this time.
 
The settlement of Adei Ad was established about a kilometer from Dar ‘Awad’s plot.

Dar ‘Awad filed a complaint at the Binyamin police station, and police officers came to his plot to photograph the damage.

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Samer Kurdi, cyclist attacked by settlers near Turmusaya, 18 July 2020. Photo: courtesy of the witnesses
Samer Kurdi, cyclist attacked by settlers near Turmusaya, 18 July 2020. Photo: courtesy of the witnesses

Turmusaya, Ramallah District: Settlers ambush and stone cyclists, beat two of them, steal three bikes and vandalize them

The settlers have ruined our quiet routine and deprived us of our basic right to spend time in nature. Because of them, we're anxious and too afraid to go biking again.

From the testimony of ‘Amer Kurdi (30), a cyclist

Five friends from Beir Zeit, a village in Ramallah District, go bike riding every weekend. On Saturday morning, 18 July 2020, they set out from Beir Zeit, cycled along Route 60 and turned off by Turmusaya. They rode for about three kilometers along a dirt road that leads to the hills northeast of the village, about a kilometer from the settlement outpost of Adei Ad.

‘Amer Kurdi (30) and Dennis Subuh (30) were about 100 meters ahead of their friends when they noticed several tents on a hilltop. The tents were put up by settlers from Adei Ad, but the cyclists initially thought they belonged to Bedouins. As they passed the hill, however, they came across a white pickup truck. A man got out of it and asked them, in Hebrew, where they were coming from. After they replied that they had come from Ramallah, he got into the truck and drove off, and the pair continued riding.

When the rest of the group reached the same spot, about seven masked settlers, armed with clubs and sticks, appeared on the hilltop. With them was the settlement guard, also armed. They started throwing stones and tumbling boulders at the cyclists from about 40 meters away. After Kurdi And Subuh stopped to check on their friends, two settlers came down the hill and started throwing stones at them. They managed to escape, but the others had to abandon their bikes and run to nearby fields under a hail of stones. Two settlers and the settlement guard managed to catch Samer Kurdi (28), ‘Amer’s brother, and one of the settlers started beating him with a club while the guard threatened him at gunpoint.  

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, Samer Kurdi described the ambush and the assault:

Suddenly, about 7 to 10 settlers appeared on the hilltop while we were in the valley below, about 40 meters away. Their faces were covered with shirts, and they started throwing large stones and pushing boulders down at us. They were holding screwdrivers, sticks, clubs and stones. One of them, who had a rifle, stood watch over them. We felt in real danger and were scared.

We left our bikes and ran away on foot. A stone hit me in my left thigh, but I kept running because I was afraid to stop. As I was running, I tripped, and then two settlers who were chasing us reached me and blocked my path. One of them was the armed settler. He pointed his gun at me while the other, who was holding a black club, started hitting me in the legs. He tried to beat me in the ribs and upper body, and I shielded myself with my arms. When the beating intensified, I tried grab the club and snatch it from him, but the armed settler threatened me, so I stopped.  Then the other settler stopped beating me.

Kurdi and Subuh noticed the settlement guard they had met before the incident standing on the hilltop next to his white pickup truck. They went up to ask for help, but he refused and signaled them to step back. They stayed put and watched what was happening from above.

Meanwhile, the settlers stole three of the bikes that had been left by the road and a cell phone attached to one of them, and then headed to Adei Ad. Subuh and Kurdi came down the hill with the security guard and joined their three friends, who were standing next to the other guard. They discovered that two of the cyclists had been injured: Samer had bruises and scratches all over his body, and Luai Mesleh (28) was injured in his right leg and in other body parts from the stone-throwing.  

The settlement guards ordered the cyclists to leave, but they refused to go without their bikes. One of the guards returned to Adei Ad and came back after an hour with the three bikes, which settlers had vandalized meanwhile. At that point, a military patrol passed by. The soldiers asked the guards what had happened without addressing the victims. They photographed the bikes and Samer and Luai's injuries, and then ordered the Palestinians to leave. When they answered that they couldn't get home because their bikes had been damaged, the soldiers asked the settlement guard to give them a ride in his pickup truck. He drove the three cyclists while Kurdi and Subuh rode on their bikes behind him.

When the group finally reached Turmusaya, at around midday, they were greeted by the head of the village council and other residents. The injured men were given first aid and driven back to Beir Zeit by taxi. After the Israel Police contacted Samer, the cyclists went to the Binyamin police station and filed a complaint against their assailants.

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Graffiti sprayed by settlers on a bus in a-Lubban a-Sharqiyah, 9 July 2020. Photo: courtesy of the village council
Graffiti sprayed by settlers on a bus in a-Lubban a-Sharqiyah, 9 July 2020. Photo: courtesy of the village council

A-Lubban a-Sharqiyah, Nablus District: Settlers slash car tires and spray hate graffiti on bus

On Thursday, 9 July 2020, residents of the southern neighborhood of a-Lubban a-Sharqiyah discovered that settlers had slashed the tires of 13 cars and broke the windshield of one car. They had also sprayed the side of a bus with the inscription, “Our land is in our hands”.

June 2020

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Majdi 'Issa at the scene of his attack by settlers, Bidya, 30 June 2020. Photo: courtesy of the witness
Majdi 'Issa at the scene of his attack by settlers, Bidya, 30 June 2020. Photo: courtesy of the witness

Bidyah, Salfit District: Settlers stone Palestinians out strolling, fire shots nearby and threaten to kill villagers who dare return

Majdi ‘Issa and I.A. from Bidyah wanted to go for a stroll in an open area that locals use for leisure and picnics. The area, known as Khallet Hassan and Khalayel Bidyah, lies about a kilometer and a half north of the village.

On the evening of 30 June 2020, at around 8:00 P.M., the two men, who are in their fifties, drove into the area. About seven armed settlers who were there started approaching the car from some 70 meters away. When they were about 50 meters away, the settlers started firing shots in the air. As the car is not equipped for off-road driving, the two men left it and tried to escape on foot.  
 
The settlers chased 'Issa and I.A., firing shots in the air and at the ground by their feet. They caught up with their victims after about 100 meters and started beating them. When one of the settlers put a gun to ‘Issa’s head and the latter tried to push it away, he fired a shot near his ear. The settlers asked the two men what they were doing there and what they do for a living, and then grabbed them by the shirts and led them forcefully back to the car. On the way, one of the settlers fired several shots close to the two men. Before the settlers left, they warned the two to never come back and ordered them to spread the word in the village: settlers will shoot any Palestinian who dares visit Khallet Hassan and Khalayel Bidyah.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi, I.A. described the incident:

My friend, Dr. Majdi ‘Issa, and I went for a walk in the area of Khallet Hassan and Khalayel Bidyah, which is about five minutes from our village. There’s a beautiful view there and it's relaxing. We always go for strolls there to get away from our daily worries and enjoy nature. Suddenly, we came across about seven settlers. Some of them were carrying automatic rifles or handguns.

The settlers headed towards us and started shooting in the air. We were petrified. Majdi tried reversing the car to get out of there but he couldn’t, because of the rough terrain. We had no choice but get out and run for it. I was wearing slippers and they fell off, so I had to run barefoot. The settlers chased us, firing in the air and at the ground near us, until they managed to grab us. I was sure I was going to die.
    
Three settlers grabbed me and started beating and kicking me. Then they dragged me back to our car, which was about 100 meters away, hitting me all over my body as they went. Another settler grabbed Majdi and fired a shot near his head, as well as shots that passed close to my head and body.

Majdi ‘Issa gave his account of the incident to B’Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi:

The settlers attacked us and punched us all over our bodies, especially my friend I.A.. One of them held a gun to my head. I pushed his hand away and he fired a shot right next to my ear, to scare me.

I tried talking to them, but they ignored me. One of them asked what we were doing there. I said we'd come for a walk to enjoy nature. He asked me if I worked with the Palestinian police, and I replied that I was a university lecturer and my friend a businessman. He told us we were lying and ordered us to raise our shirts to check if we had any weapons. The settler with the gun said that the land wasn’t ours and belonged to the Jews.

Before they let us go, they threatened to kill us if we ever came back. The settler ordered me to tell the residents of Bidyah not to visit the land because he’d kill anyone who went there, since it's Jewish land. Then they let us get into our car and drive back to the village.

‘Issa and I.A. drove to the village clinic. I.A. was then taken by ambulance to the Arab Hospital in Nablus, where he was examined and discharged after several hours.

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Uprooted trees in the Sultan family's plot. Haris, 25 June 2020. Photo: courtesy of the family
Uprooted trees in the Sultan family's plot. Haris, 25 June 2020. Photo: courtesy of the family

Haris, Salfit District: Settlers uproot almost 150 olive trees and bury them in the ground. Amjad Sultan: “We’re exhausted from the effort to hold on to our land”

The damage was discovered on Monday. Two residents of Haris, brothers Ihab (40) and Amjad (46) Sultan, went to their farmland in the Khallet Abu al-'Ula area and found that almost 150 of their olive trees had vanished.

The brothers’ olive grove stretches across 42 dunams [1 dunam = 1,000 sq. meters]. Apart from the 10-year-old trees that disappeared, they have another 300 trees that are 40 years old. The plot lies on the western side of the town, just by the main road (Route 505).

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, Amjad Sultan described the incident:

My brother informed me there were trees missing, and I rushed to our land. I couldn’t understand how 150  olive trees that had been there for 10 years could suddenly disappear! Our grove has about 300 olive trees that my father, God rest his soul, planted in 1980. Ten years ago, we planted another 150. We go there almost every day to tend to the trees.

We looked for the trees and found them buried in the ground.

I called the Israel Police and officers arrived after half an hour. They said the grove was visibly damaged. A Civil Administration official who came with police officers and soldiers told me to contact the Palestinian DCO. It was clear that they didn’t want to handle the case.

We're exhausted from the effort to hold on to our land and work it – because we’ve been struggling for 10 years. In the first three years after you plant the trees, you need to water them a lot. We would bring the water with us by car. We worked hard so the grove would flourish.

Every time, the settlement guard from Revava would arrive and demand our permit to be on our land. We ignored him, but sometimes the settlers would come and steal the barrels protecting the trees. When we demanded that they give them back, they sometimes did. We never imagined they would go this far, uprooting our trees and burying them.

Smashed windshield in Muhammad Rubo'a's car after settlers stoned it. Duma, 25 June 2020. Photo: Abdulkarim Sadi, B’Tselem
Smashed windshield in Muhammad Rubo'a's car after settlers stoned it. Duma, 25 June 2020. Photo: Abdulkarim Sadi, B’Tselem

Duma, Nablus District: Settlers attack Palestinian vehicle with stones

Muhammad Rubo’a (27) is an accountant who lives in the village of Sir, east of Qalqiliyah, and works in Jericho. On Thursday evening, 25 June 2020, he was driving home via Route 458 when he reached the Duma junction. He noticed a car stopped on the other side of the road and  three people standing behind it. When Rubo’a continued driving, two of them ran towards him and the third threw a large stone at his car, hitting the left rear windshield.

Rubo’a braked hard in fright and hit his head against the steering wheel. He then drove on about eight kilometers until he got to the ‘Aqraba junction, where he stopped.

Palestinians passing by noticed the bleeding man and called for an ambulance, which took him to Rafidia hospital in Nablus. Rubo'a was examined and discharged, and members of his family went to the junction to pick up his car.

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Muhammad Ka'abneh after settler assault. Wadi al-Qalt, 21 June 2020. Photo: 'Amer 'Aruri, B’Tselem
Muhammad Ka'abneh after settler assault. Wadi al-Qalt, 21 June 2020. Photo: 'Amer 'Aruri, B’Tselem

Wadi al-Qalt, east of Jerusalem: Settlers invade 'Arab al-Ka’abneh community, one beats resident with metal rod

On 21 June 2020, towards evening, about five settlers arrived at the community of 'Arab al-Ka’abneh in Wadi al-Qalt. They came from the direction of a settlement outpost they established two years ago about 500 meters from the community. The settlers began wandering among the tents on the pretext they were looking for a shepherd who had attacked one of them.

While an argument ensued with the residents, another settler arrived on foot from the main road nearby. The settler began hitting the residents' sheep with a metal rod he was holding. When Muhammad Ka’abneh (48) approached him, the settler hit him on the head and fled with the rest of the group.

Residents took Ka’abneh to the main road and signaled a military jeep that was passing by. The soldiers called the Israel Police and ordered an Israeli ambulance. After Ka’abneh refused to get in to it, they called for a Red Crescent ambulance. Ka’abneh was taken to the governmental hospital in Jericho.

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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. 

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'Ein Samia, 15 June 2020: Fighting a fire started by settlers. Photo: Iyad Hadad, B'Tselem
'Ein Samia, 15 June 2020: Fighting a fire started by settlers. Photo: Iyad Hadad, B'Tselem

‘Ein Samia, Ramallah District: Settlers torch fields, Israeli security forces and firefighters stand by and let dozens of fields burn down

Why did Israeli security forces and firefighters stand by and leave the Palestinian victims to put out the fires alone? Why did they prevent Palestinian firefighters from helping? That is what state-backed settler violence looks like.

The incident took place on 15 June 2020. Six farmers from the village of Kafr Malik were working their land near the ‘Ein Samia junction when they noticed a jeep drive along the road and stop several times. Every time, one or two settlers got out and set fire to Palestinian fields. The farmers shouted at them and the settlers quickly fled towards Kochav Hashachar (a settlement established about three kilometers from ‘Ein Samia’s land in 1977).

The farmers called residents from the village and from the neighboring village of ‘Ein Samia, and dozens came to help put out the fires.   

Israeli soldiers, Border Police and police officers arrived about ten minutes after the villagers. Instead of helping put out the fast-spreading flames, they stood by and watched from afar. Two Israeli firefighter crews summoned from nearby settlements did not intervene, either, despite repeated requests by the Palestinians.

A few minutes later, a Palestinian Civil Defence firetruck arrived. As the farmland lies in Area C, the Palestinian firefighters could not enter the area without Israeli permission. Yet as the Palestinian Authority has stopped its security coordination with Israel, they could not request permission. They hoped the soldiers would let them through, but the security forces stopped the firetruck and after a two-hour wait, the crew gave up and left.

The residents had to fight the fire alone with small containers of water, wet blankets and tree leaves. It took them until 6:30 P.M. to quench the flames. By then, the fire had decimated some 100 dunams of land [1 dunam = 1,000 sq. meters], about half of them cultivated fields and land used for pasture, barley crops and vicia (cattle fodder). The fire caused substantial damage to local farmers and shepherds, who now have to buy fodder for their livestock.

Diaa’ Rustum (33), a married father of three and a farmer from Kafr Malik, told B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad about the arson:

On the day of the incident, I was working as a hired hand at a za'atar (hyssop) plot. We started working at about 4:00 P.M., when I saw a white jeep with Israeli license plates stop at the ‘Ein Samia junction about 300 meters away. A man got out and crouched next to a dry field by the roadside. Just then, a Palestinian car drove out of a nearby dirt road and scared the man. He got back into the jeep and drove towards the settlement of Kochav Hashachar.

Settlers often set fire to our fields during the harvest season, but after that attempt we went back to work and kept on plowing the soil. At about 4:15 P.M., we saw a white car that looked like the same jeep driving slowly towards us, and I noticed a fire raging in the fields by the roadside behind it. We started shouting, ran over there and called the fire department. Suddenly, the jeep stopped again, about half a kilometer from the fire, and the settler got out and lit some dry weeds by the road.

He saw us shouting for help and within seconds, jumped back into the car and headed south. He stopped about half a kilometer away and lit another field, and then drove off towards the settlement. We couldn’t run after him or even film him because we were too busy putting out the fire. It spread quickly. We used everything we could lay our hands on: bits of rubber, branches and thorns.

Meanwhile, a call went out from the loudspeakers of the mosque in Kafr Malik for people to come and help put out the fire, and dozens of people showed up.  

Khaled Ghneimat (42), a married father of six and farmer from Kafr Malik, spoke with B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad and described the security forces’ conduct and the damage the arson caused his family:

The military and the Israeli police showed up early on, but they didn’t do a thing. Israeli firetrucks also arrived, but their crews didn’t help at all. They were only on standby in case the fire spread towards the settlements. A Palestinian Civil Defense firetruck from the village of a-Taybeh also came, but its crew couldn’t enter the area because they couldn’t get permission. They waited a long time and finally gave up and left.

According to estimates, more than 100 dunams of land burnt down at the three sites of the torching. Most of it was wild plants we used to graze flocks. This will force us to buy large amounts of fodder for thousands of shekels.

Musa Bani Maniyah against the background of the solar panels smashed by settlers. Al-Fajam, 15 June 2020. Photo: Salma a-Deb'i, B’Tselem
Musa Bani Maniyah against the background of the solar panels smashed by settlers. Al-Fajam, 15 June 2020. Photo: Salma a-Deb'i, B’Tselem

The al-Fajam (‘Aqraba) community, Nablus District: Dozens of settlers raid Palestinian tent compound, utterly destroying it

There were two witnesses to the incident that took place on Monday morning, 15 June 2020: Musa (22) and Islam (18) Bani Maniyah. The brothers were grazing their flock in eastern al-Fajam when they noticed four civilian vehicles, coming from the direction of the settlement of Itamar, turn off onto the road leading to their community. From about 500 meters away, Musa and Islam watched the vehicles stop in front of their family's tents. They saw some 20 settlers get out and go on a calculated rampage. First, the settlers smashed the community’s solar system, which consisted of four solar panels and a circuit breaker panel provided by the Palestinian Authority. Then they vandalized a parked car. Then they entered the tents and destroyed all of their contents, including a refrigerator, bedding, kitchen utensils and sheeting. Finally, they stole several tents and left.

The Bani Maniyah family earn a living from herding and live in the area for most of the year, along with five other families. In summer, they relocate to ‘Aqraba and a few members stay behind to watch the flock.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i, Musa Bani Maniyah described the settlers’ rampage:

When I reached our tents, I  saw they were in a terrible state. The settlers had vandalized the tents themselves and everything inside them – bedding, clothes, utensils, mattresses, everything.  They smashed the refrigerator. I don’t know what they used, maybe iron pipes or clubs. They stole mattresses from my brother Yusef’s tent, as well as the winter bedding. They also vandalized my brother’s car, which was parked by his tent. We only use it for driving to the fields because it isn’t registered. Within a few minutes, they destroyed everything.

We got the solar panels from the local authorities three years ago. They generated electricity for three families: us, and the Fakhr and Zuheir families who live in the community. In summer, the heat is unbearable here. Thanks to the solar power we could use a refrigerator, so we had cold water. We also used the electricity to charge our phones.

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'Asirah al-Qibliyah, 19 June 2020: The shattered windshield of the al-'Omaris' car. Photo courtesy of the family
'Asirah al-Qibliyah, 19 June 2020: The shattered windshield of the al-'Omaris' car. Photo courtesy of the family

'Asirah al-Qibliyah, Nablus District: Settlers stone Palestinian home in broad daylight and vandalize family’s car at night

On 13 June 2020, at around 4:00 P.M., about 15 settlers stoned the home of Maysaa and ‘Abd al-Basset ‘Omari, a couple in their fifties, in the southern part of the village. The family went outside to protect their property, along with other residents who came to fend off the attack. Minutes later, a military jeep drove up and soldiers got out and started firing tear-gas canisters at the villagers. The residents dispersed and the settlers headed back towards the settlement of Yitzhar, which was established about a kilometer away in 1983.  

A few days later, on Friday, 19 June 2020, the 'Omaris were woken in the middle of the night by an explosion near their home. When they went outside to see what happened, they saw four settlers running towards a vehicle used by the Yitzhar security coordinators, standing about 150 meters away. The family discovered that the settlers had smashed the rear windshield of one of their cars and slashed its rear tires.

A-Tuwani, 13 June 2020: A settler tries to enter the village during the Ta'ayush tour. Photo: Nasser Nawaj'ah, B'Tselem
A-Tuwani, 13 June 2020: A settler tries to enter the village during the Ta'ayush tour. Photo: Nasser Nawaj'ah, B'Tselem

A-Tuwani, South Hebron Hills: Settlers try to invade village during activists' tour

On Saturday, 13 June 2020, at around 12:00 P.M., activists from the grassroots group Ta’ayush visited a-Tuwani to protest the erection of a tent by settlers two weeks earlier about 300 meters from the village. During the visit, four settlers, one of them armed, tried to enter the village, sparking an argument with residents. About 20 minutes later, soldiers blocked the settlers from entering the village and ordered them to leave. A few days later, on 18 June 2020, the settlers dismantled the tent.

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Khirbet Susiya, South Mt. Hebron: Israeli settlers invade the village and harass residents; soldiers refuse to remove them

On Friday morning, 12 June 2020, at around 9:00 A.M., dozens of settlers entered the Palestinian village of Khirbet Susiya. They began wandering among the houses and harassing the residents. After about a half an hour, soldiers arrived at the scene. They treated the residents dismissively and refused to remove the settlers. Only after some 15 Palestinian activists and residents began marching in protest towards the settlement of Susiya, did the soldiers remove the settlers from the village.

The military expelled the residents of Khirbet Susiya from their village in 1986 and they relocated to their farmland. Since then, the military and settlers have trying to drive them out of there, too.

Central Hebron: Dozens of settlers, armed with stones, raid wadi al-Hasin neighborhood

The settlement of Giv’at Ha’avot was established about 70 meters from the neighborhood of Wadi al-Hasin in Hebron. Due to this proximity (and full military backing), the settlers allow themselves to invade the Palestinian neighborhood and do as they please in it. On Friday evening, 12 June 2020,  about 30 settlers arrived at Wadi al-Hasin. They wandered among the houses and left after a few minutes. About two hours later, they returned to the neighborhood and began throwing stones at parked cars. Dozens of residents came out to defend their property, and threw stones at the settlers to make them leave.

Neighborhood resident 'Abd al-Karim al-Ja’bari (61) quickly called a Civil Administration officer to report what was happening, and he arrived within minutes. Two police officers soon followed, accompanied by about 30 soldiers. The forces tried to separate the settlers from the residents. The settlers initially withdrew to a plot of land behind the al-Ja’bari family’s home and continued to throw stones at the road and at houses. After about half an hour, they left the area.

Over the course of the attack, the settlers shattered the windshields of four vehicles. Two of the owners, including the al-Ja’bari family, filed complaints at the police station in the settlement of Kiryat Arba.

'Abd al-Karim al-Ja’bari, a married father of 13, described the incursion to B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bari:

My grandson Muhammad (9) ran over to me yelling “Settlers! Settlers!”. I went to the doorstep and saw about 20 settlers approaching our house. When they spotted me, they turned and went in another direction. The settlers were wandering around without a military escort.

At around 8:30 P.M., I heard shouting. I rushed outside and saw about 30 settlers, probably the same group as before, but there more of them. I saw them throw stones at cars parked by my house. My relatives came out and started yelling. A few of them started throwing stones at the settlers to keep them away.

I called an officer of the Civil Administration, and he arrived within five minutes. After a few minutes, two police officers and about 30 soldiers arrived, as well. The forces tried to calm the situation down and remove the settlers. They ordered us to get back inside and told the settlers to go back to their homes. In the end, the settlers left. Then we began assessing the damage they had caused.

Settlers assault Ibrahim Bader on his way home. Hebron, 12 June 2020. Photo: Zidan a-Sharabati
Settlers assault Ibrahim Bader on his way home. Hebron, 12 June 2020. Photo: Zidan a-Sharabati

Central Hebron: One had his nose broken, the other was beaten and had to wait in the street until the attacked ended. Two brothers were assaulted the same day by different groups of settlers.

On Friday, 12 June 2020, Muhammad Bader was sitting at his doorstep in the neighborhood of Tel Rumeidah. Bader (26), a married father of two toddlers, lives in central Hebron, where settlers’ provocations have become a daily routine. It was around 4:00 P.M. when he noticed four settlers trying to grab a cart that one of his neighbors uses for work. He asked them to leave it alone. Three of the settlers left the cart and began to beat Bader. Then, one of them pulled a heavy object from his pocket and punched Bader in the nose with it. The settlers then fled towards a-Shuhada Street. When Bader and his father tried to chase their attackers, a soldier cut them off by the military base nearby.

A few minutes later, Bader passed out. Soldiers from the base gave him first aid and called for an ambulance, which took him to ‘Aliyah Hospital in Hebron. There, he was examined and X-rayed, and diagnosed with a broken nose.

Bader was discharged at around 10:00 P.M that night.

Muhammad’s brother, Ibrahim Bader (31), was also attacked by settlers that day. At around 11:00 P.M., Ibrahim crossed the Bab a-Zawiya checkpoint (known as “Checkpoint 56”) on his way home. Suddenly, about eight settlers pounced on him and started beating him. Ibrahim tried to run back to the checkpoint, but the settlers chased him and continued to beat him there. A soldier who was at the checkpoint tried to help him get away from the settlers, but found it hard to do so. He advised Bader to wait on the other side of the checkpoint until the settlers left. Ibrahim complied and waited there for about a half an hour.

A resident of Hebron who had captured the incident on camera called Ibrahim to tell him the police had arrived. Ibrahim went back to the spot where he had been attacked and gave his testimony to the officers. They offered to pick him up from home the following day and take him to the station to file a complaint – which they did.

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Nassim Haja after settler attack. Burqah, 11 June 2020. Photo: Salma a-Deb'i
Nassim Haja after settler attack. Burqah, 11 June 2020. Photo: Salma a-Deb'i

Burqah, Nablus District: “They took us by complete surprise. They were holding sticks and the tip of one had nails in it. ” Settlers attack farmers with sticks and stones.

About 15 settlers viciously assaulted farmers working their land. The incident occurred on Thursday, 11 June 2020, when three residents of Burqah were out picking hyssop (za’atar) and sage and tending to olive trees on Nasim Haja’s (42) farmland.

At around midday, the three residents – Haja, Nasrallah Salah (16) and his father Fatin Salah (49) – saw about 15 settlers who seemed to appear out of nowhere. Some of them were masked and carrying firearms and sticks. The settlers stopped several meters away and started throwing stones at Haja and Salah, who were working side by side. Three of the stones hit Haja – two in the back and one in the leg – and Fatin and Salah helped him get away. The settlers left, too.

Fatin alerted village residents, who came and took Haja home. An ambulance then took him to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus, where he was diagnosed with torn tendons in his leg and lesions on his liver. Haja was later discharged with orders to rest for 25 days under medical supervision.

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

I heard Fatin yelling: “Settler! Settlers!”. Salah jumped up and started running towards the village. I looked back and saw four settlers really close to me, so I had no choice but to run. They took us by complete surprise. They were holding sticks and the tip of one had nails in it.

I fled. They ran around throwing stones at us and shouting at the top of their lungs. Most of them were masked and some were carrying weapons.

One of the stones hit my back and another hit my leg. I fell down. My leg hurt so much that I thought it was broken. The settlers kept throwing stones at me, and a third one hit me in the back. I just managed to drag myself away, because of my injured leg. I called Fatin and he came to help me.

The plot in which the attack took place lies a kilometer northwest of Burqah. The settlement of Homesh (evacuated in 2005) was established a kilometer from the plot. About a week earlier, on 6 May 2020, settlers attacked two shepherds near Burqah, injuring one of them in the leg.

“Israel lives” (“Am Yisrael Chai”) - the slogan sprayed by arsonists in Zeita (Jamma'in), 11 June, 2020. Photo: Rashid Ali Mahmoud Hanash
“Israel lives” (“Am Yisrael Chai”) - the slogan sprayed by arsonists in Zeita (Jamma'in), 11 June, 2020. Photo: Rashid Ali Mahmoud Hanash

Zeita (Jamma’in), Nablus District: Settlers torch heart patient's car and spray “Israel lives” on his wall

The Hanash family live in the northern section of Zeita. It's a rough walk from their home to the center of the village, especially if you have a heart condition. The settlers who sought to damage this remote property must have had easier access: They came, did their damage and left without anyone noticing them or holding them accountable.

It was a Thursday night, 11 June 2020, around 1:00 A.M. Muhammad Hanash (18) discovered that the family’s car was ablaze and called for help. When they went outside, the family found that apart from burning their car, the settlers had also sprayed “Israel lives” (“Am Yisrael Chai”) on one of their walls.

Rashid Hanash (48), Muhammad’s father, reported the incident to the village council and to the Palestinian police. The latter informed him they could not come, since the Palestinian Authority has stopped its security coordination with Israel.

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

I saw the front part of the car on fire. We tried to put out the flames with water. Some neighbors came to help us.

Since we put out the fire, I’ve been sitting by the car in disbelief. I paid 95,000 shekels (~27,500 USD) for it and the insurance doesn’t cover damage by settlers. I’ve had open-heart surgery and rely on the car to go into Nablus for treatment. It’s hard to even reach the center of the village without a car, because our house is so far away. I don’t know what I’m going to do now.

I don’t have the means to buy another car.

The residents of a-Sawiyah, another village in the district, encountered the same slogan, “Israel lives”, and similar damage to their cars. Residents of the northern neighborhood awoke to a similar scene on Monday morning, 8 June 2020, when they found the tires of ten cars slashed. A nearby security camera captured a settler slashing a tire and walking away.  

The settlement of Rehelim was established in 1991 about two kilometers away from the neighborhood.

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