Thursday, September 24, 2020

A surrounded city; Nablus and its settlers

By Jessica Purkiss - January 23, 2013
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]

In 1995, following the signing of the Oslo Accords two years prior, Nablus became an autonomous Palestinian city. Designated under Area A, the newly formed Palestinian Authority were responsible for the civil and security administration. As in many areas of West Bank however, this is not the reality. The region of Nablus is surrounded by Israeli settlements making it not only subject to Israeli military control but also to the flourishing radical Jewish communities that live within these settlements.

Ghassan Daghlas, an official in charge of the settler violence file for the Nablus governorate, pointed out that a chunk of all settlements and outposts are built within the governate itself.

“We have 184 settlements and 176 settler outposts in the West Bank,” he said. “In Nablus alone there are 12 of the settlements and 36 of the settler outposts. These take up a total of 3500 dunams of fenced land, not including the security parameters.”

As a result the villages around Nablus are subject to settler attacks on a daily basis. According to the Nablus governorate, 2012 registered the year of the highest number of settler attacks. A total of 395 attacks on Palestinians were registered in the West Bank, with Nablus accounting for 35% of the assaults.

In Nablus alone there are 12 of the settlements and 36 of the settler outposts. These take up a total of 3500 dunams of fenced land, not including the security parameters

“Israeli settlers initiated many actions against Palestinian villages, particularly in the Nablus area,” said one Medicins Sans Frontiers worker based in the city of Nablus. “These have severely increased since 2010. Simultaneously, the settlements have continued to expand and the number of Palestinian houses and other structures and the number of persons displaced thus doubled between 2010 and 2011.”

Taysser Narallah, director of Public Affairs of the Palestinian Authority in the governorate of Nablus, commented on the settlement issue in the West Bank.

“In principle all settlements built on the land agreed in 1967 are illegal in accordance with Palestine and with international law. This is the core of the issue. Any by-products of these settlements and settlement outposts fall under the banner of illegality under international law.”

Since the beginning of the year, settler attacks on Nablus’ villages have included live ammunition shot at Palestinian youths playing in the snow in Orif, 120 olive trees uprooted in Qaryut, and the vandalising of cars with anti- Arab graffiti in Qablan. The situation appears to be growing more volatile daily.

“Israeli settler violence is becoming a daily agenda. We feel like the settlers have no other job other than to attack Palestinians,” said Narallah.

These attacks have become increasingly led by gangs attached to the settlements or settlement outpost. OCHA noted a sharp increase in 2006 from lone attacker to mobs, ranging from between two to one hundred settlers. The settlement outposts are placed strategically on hilltops, this had led to some of the youth that terrorize Palestinian villagers to be named, 'the Hilltop Youth.’

Speaking on such groups Daghlas said, “Not every Israeli lives in a settlement, but every religious fanatic lives in a settlement. I group all fanatics as a gang. Some may call them the hilltop youth, or Price Taggers – there are all kinds different names for these gangs. The issue is they are very organised; that’s what’s dangerous about them, they have networks.”

“Israel as a state is acting as a state above the law, sponsoring and supporting the settlers committing acts above law and with impunity,” said Taysser Narallah.

Ghassan Daghlas sees no respite from the settlers into the new year. “When the clock chimed midnight, at one minute past the new year of 2013 settlers were besieging the house of a citizen and uprooting 250 olive trees,” he remarked. “That speaks for itself.”

Spotlight on the Yitzhar settlement

Last year the Yitzhar settlement in Nablus ranked the highest for its number of attacks on Palestinian villages.

The settlement was established in 1984. Yitzhar has since illegally annexed a vast amount of land, disrupting villages such as Urif, which is situated only 1500 meters away, and Burin which lies encircled by both Yitzhar and the illegal settlement of Bracha.

As of last year OCHA believes the settlement covers 1800 dunums of land. When it was established it covered 18 dunums, which is an increase of over 61 dunums every year it has been in existence. 7500 dunums are inaccessible for Palestinians due to settler violence. Since the year 2000, 2200 dunums of land has been stolen from the village of Urif to expand the settlement. In the past four years over 4000 olive trees have been destroyed.

It is not only the expansion that worries the villagers, but the terrorism the Yitzhar settlers deploy daily on the Palestinians. The settlers have their own trained security group led by a head of security, who is a man suspected of murdering a resident of Urif in 2004.

As of April 2012, according to the information provided by International Solidarity Movement, he continues to lead the campaign of terror against the surrounding Palestinian villages of Burin, Huwara, Madma, Assria Al-alibya, Ein Nabous, and Urif.

To name but a few of their attacks, in 2012 the Yitzhar head of security and a number of masked settlers attacked a school while the students were sitting for a preparatory exam. They were later joined by the Israeli army soldiers. At the end of the attack teachers collected sixty tear gas canisters, a number of sound grenades, and at least thirty rounds of live ammunition fired directly over the children’s heads.

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