Israeli settler fires in the air in presence of soldiers; settlers escorted by soldiers throw stones, break branches in olive grove and torch agricultural structure, a-Tuwani, South Hebron Hills, 26 June 2021
On Saturday afternoon, 26 June 2021, some 20 settlers who came from the direction of the Havat Ma’on outpost invaded the eastern part of the village of a-Tuwani. They threw stones at its residents and beat several of them with sticks. One of the villagers was injured in the head and ribs and was taken to hospital. Another was injured lightly in the leg.
About 15 minutes later, three soldiers arrived and walked with the settlers towards the communities of Khirbet a-Rakeez and Khirbet al-Mufaqarah. When they were few dozen meters from the community’s homes, a settler opened fire at the residents while others chased after them, torched an agricultural structure belonging to a resident of a-Tuwani and broke branches in his olive grove. After the settlers drew back to a wooded area near the outpost, more soldiers arrived and fired live rounds and tear gas canisters at residents and homes in a-Tuwani.
The residents of the Masafer Yatta area have been suffering repeated attacks by settlers and soldiers as part of Israel’s routine harassment of Palestinian communities in the South Hebron Hills and in Masafer Yatta in particular, in its bid to expel them from their homes and area of residence.
The following testimonies were given to B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bari on 28 June 2021:
In his testimony, Basel al-‘Adrah (25), a resident of a-Tuwani and volunteer with B’Tselem’s camera project, recounted what happened that day:
On Saturday, 26 June 2021, at around 2:00 P.M., a friend called and told me that settlers had come to a well that’s a few hundred meters east of the village homes. I went to Fadel a-Reb’i’s house, which is one of the homes on the eastern side of the village, and filmed the settlers from there. There were six of them standing around the well. When the settlers noticed me and several other residents who were with me, they came towards us. At the same, more villagers came to Fadel’s house.
The settlers threw stones at us. I saw one using a slingshot and others throwing stones with their hands. I saw settlers talking on their phones, and within 15 minutes, about 15 more settlers showed up. They were holding sticks and joined the six who were already there. Before they managed to get to Fadel’s house, I went out towards them with six other residents.
When we reached them, the settlers attacked us with sticks and stones. I had to throw away my camera to defend myself. I saw Fuad ‘Omar lying on the ground and a settler beating him with a stick.
About 15 minutes later, three soldiers arrived. The settlers left us and headed west, towards Khirbet al-Mufaqarah and Khirbet a-Rakeez. I saw one of the settlers open fire at several residents of Khirbet al-Mufaqarah who had gathered to stop them. The residents ran away and the settlers chased after them.
In his testimony, Fuad ‘Omar (37), a married father of six and resident of a-Tuwani, described being attacked by the settlers:
On Saturday, 26 June 2021, at around 2:00 P.M., I found out through the WhatsApp group of the a-Tuwani council that settlers from Havat Ma’on had invaded the eastern part of the village. I went to the house of Fadel al-Reb’i’s family. Other residents also came to Fadel’s house, including my friend Basel al-‘Adrah (25).
I saw a group of about 20 adult setters running towards the house. Before they got there, I went out with six other residents, including Basel, to meet them. When we reached them, they attacked us with sticks and stones. They hit me with sticks more than 20 times in the back and head. I was injured on the right side of my head. The other blows injured three of my ribs. Another villager was injured in his right leg, which swelled up.
After 15 minutes, three soldiers arrived. The setters walked with them towards Khirbet a-Rakeez.
I went back to Fadel’s house, and after 15 minutes or so, a Red Crescent ambulance came and took me to the government hospital in Yatta. I had tests and X-rays done and seven stitches to my head. After all the examinations, I got home around 6:30 P.M.
In his testimony, Hatem Makhamreh (49), a married father of 14 from a-Tuwani, described how settlers burned down an agricultural structure of his and damaged olives trees in his grove:
I’m a farmer and own a three-dunam [1 dunam = 1,000 sq. meters] grove of olive and apricot trees on the edge of the village of a-Tuwani, at the beginning of the roading leading to Khirbet a-Rakeez. There is an agricultural structure in my plot with a fully furnished room: a mattress, beds, chairs and kitchen utensils. I sleep there sometimes with some of my family, when we work the land and tend to the trees.
On Saturday, 26 June 2021, at around 3:00 P.M., I was away from the village when a friend called and told me that there were problems between settlers and village residents near Fadel a-Reb’i’s house. It’s one of the houses on the eastern edge of the village, opposite Havat Ma’on’s wooded area and close to my agricultural structure.
I went back to the village straight away. When I got there, I saw that there was a fire in my agricultural structure. More than 20 adult setters were standing there behind three soldiers. The settlers were holding sticks and throwing stones. A few residents told me that the settlers had broken the structure’s door and set fire to the furniture. I saw a fire burning inside and smoke rising from within. I called the Palestinian Civil Defense and asked them to send a fire truck, but they replied that they needed to coordinate their arrival and that it would take time.
The settlers moved away, and several residents and I started putting out the fire. I was afraid it would spread to the dry bush outside the farmland and reach my grove. Meanwhile, the settlers went to the grove and started breaking the branches of the fruit trees. They also uprooted olive trees I’d planted in the winter. The three soldiers escorting them didn’t try to stop them. We kept trying to put out the fire with water and dirt for over an hour, because the fire truck didn’t arrive.
We saw the settlers go to the edge of Havat Ma’on’s wooded area. Other soldiers were waiting for them there and started firing tear gas canisters and live rounds at the eastern houses of a-Tuwani.