Friday, July 03, 2020

Another week of unsanctioned settler violence in Nablus

By Jan Walraven - March 01, 2014
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [settler violence] [Settlers attacks] [Settlement Expansion] [Nablus]

Palestinians carry a man injured during clashes between settlers for the Jewish settlement of Yitzhar and Palestinians from the village of Asira Al-Qibiliya, south of the northern West Bank city of Nablus, 19 May 2012 (Wagdi Eshtaya/APA images)

The village of Jit, located in the northern Nablus governate, was attacked by dozens of settlers on Saturday 22 February. 

Damaging several private homes and vehicles, settlers living in the illegal outpost of Havat Gilad left behind a trail of destruction. +972 reported on video footage of the attack showing settlers throwing rocks towards the village and Palestinian villagers doing the same in response, causing the settlers to leave the scene. 

On Thursday 20 January, six Palestinians were injured when settlers from Israel’s Yitzhar settlement attacked the Burin High School in Nablus..The Israeli army intervened by firing several rounds of teargas. According to an Israeli army spokesperson quoted by Ma'an News Agency, clashes started when100s of Palestinians began hurling rocks at soldiers who were engaged in routine activity in the area and that soldiers used riot dispersal means against the protesters. 

Ghasan Daghlas, a representative for the Palestinian Authority (PA) who monitors settlement activity opposed these statements, telling Ma'an that Palestinians threw rocks in response to the initial settler attack. That same day, the Israeli army closed off the main road after a molotov cocktail was thrown at a car owned by a settler. 

The clashes of 20 January came after a similar settler attack on Wednesday 19 January, when one group of settlers threw stones at Palestinian schoolchildren, while another group attacked a Palestinian man near the Yitzhar settlement. Ma'an News Agency reported that Israeli forces arrived to the area soon afterwards, firing tear gas canisters and rubber coated bullets at the Palestinians.

Settler impunity in Nablus

In its Humanitarian Bulletin of January 2014, the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OCHAopt) turned its spotlight to the Nablus governorate. Throughout 2013, the area witnessed 119 settler attacks resulting in Palestinian injuries or property damage, the largest number in the West Bank. In January 2014, there were 29 settler attacks in the West Bank, eight of which took place in the Nablus governorate. OCHA’s bulletin voices particular concern regarding the high level of violence in the settlements of Yitzhar and Bracha, both located south of Nablus. 

The PA reacted to continuing settler violence in the area with a press release on Monday 26 February, asking the international community to "hold Israel accountable for its international law and human rights violations that continue to affect the people of Palestine on a daily basis."

Settlers use violent attacks and intimidation tactics in their effort to confiscate Palestinian owned land. OCHA reports in the Humanitarian Bulletin, that the Israeli army has reacted to these recurrent incidents by issuing military orders to close the Palestinian lands and by putting in place a system of prior coordination. This entails that Palestinian farmers will have to apply for access and military protection before being able to enter their lands. They can only apply for this protection a few times a year. 

When farmers use these targeted lands less often, settler attacks decrease. Nonetheless, these measures place severe restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinian farmers. Instead of sanctioning the settlers carrying out the attacks, measures are being imposed on farmers who have fallen victim to such attacks. With access to their lands limited, farmers aren't able to perform all necessary agricultural actions, leading to a decline in quantity and quality of the produce, causing economic loss. 

According to international humanitarian law, the Israeli army, as an occupying force, is obliged to prevent attacks against Palestinians living in the West Bank and to properly investigate all incidents. For OCHA this is a clear example of "the longstanding failure of the Israeli authorities to enforce of rule of law on Israeli settlers."

Research by Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din confirmed these failings. Yesh Din concluded that settlers are largely operating with impunity throughout the West Bank. Between 2005 and 2013, Yesh Din monitored 938 investigation files. Just 8.5% of them ended in the indictment of Israelis suspected of harming Palestinians and their property. OCHA has recorded a total of 1,474 settler attacks resulting in casualties or damage to property between 2010 and 2013.

Next to that, OCHA concluded, in a report on settler violence from November 2011, that the settler impunity, combined with "measures of the current system, including requiring Palestinians to file complaints at police stations located inside Israeli settlements," discourages Palestinians from filing complaints in the first place.

Moreover, it seems that in some cases the Israeli army even offers protection to settlers while they carry out attacks. One case, reported by the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, shows video footage of an attack by settlers on a water reservoir and the secondary school in 'Urif, a Palestinian village near Yitzhar in Nablus. The footage captured on 6 January shows Israeli soldiers accompanying settlers as they attack. When students from the local school responded to the attack by throwing rocks at the settlers, the Israeli army fired tear gas in the direction of the school.

The settlers of Yitzhar do not only focus their violent attacks towards surrounding Palestinian villages. On Friday 12 January, for example, a group of settlers vandalized an Israeli commander's vehicle, slashing his tires. According to Israel Yahom, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu called for the arrest of the perpetrators.

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