Amidst the increasing Coronavirus crisis and the imposed isolation shutdowns, during the last week alone settlers have attacked Palestinians and their property in the Occupied West Bank on numerous occasions. On Saturday, March 28, for the second consecutive day, settlers attacked the village of Al-Tuwani, south of the city of Hebron in the West Bank, according to a local source. Fo’ad Amour, a local rights activist, told the Palestinian news agency Wafa that settlers from the nearby illegal settlement of Havat Ma’on attacked the village, pelting stones at shepherds and other civilians in the full view of Israeli soldiers who did nothing to stop the attack.
Amour added that not only did the soldiers do nothing to halt the settler violence, but actually attacked with teargas and stun grenades Palestinian protestors who attempted to fend off the hooligan settlers. Two Palestinians were slightly injured by rubber-coated rounds fired at them by Israeli soldiers.
On the same day Israeli settlers cut down 300 olive trees in Palestinian fields in the southern West Bank, according to a local official. Hasan Breijieh, from the Anti-Wall, Anti-Settlements Commission, told Wafa that the settlers destroyed the trees in an area near an illegal settlement between the Palestinian cities of Bethlehem and Hebron. Breijieh described how settlers are taking advantage of the anti-corona lockdown declared by the Bethlehem governorate to fell trees in Palestinian fields belonging to the villages of al-Khader, Wadi Fukin and Wadi Rahhal.
On Wednesday, March 25, Israeli settlers damaged 50 olive trees and grapevines in the village of al-Khader south of Bethlehem. Hisham Mohammad Sbeih, a landowner whose field was the target of settler violence, told Wafa that he entered his grove, located nearby the Gush Etzion colonial settlement bloc, and was astounded to discover that settlers had damaged 40 grapevines and 10 olive trees. He noted that this was not the first time that settlers wreaked havoc on his land, and that Jewish settlers are exploiting the lockdown of the Bethlehem district to augment their wanton and systematic destruction of Palestinian groves.
On Tuesday, March 24, Israeli settlers attacked a Palestinian house in the village of Burqa, north of Nablus in the northern West Bank. Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors settlement construction in the northern West Bank, told Wafa that a group of settlers stormed the site of the former colonial settlement outpost of Homesh, evacuated in 2005, and attacked a Palestinian home in Burqa, damaging it.
On the same day, settlers attacked Palestinian residents of the village of Umm Safa, northwest of Ramallah, injuring two, according to the head of the village council Marwan Sabbah. The council leader told Wafa that settlers assaulted village farmers with sharp tools as the latter were working on their land, injuring two Palestinians. The settlers had let loose their cattle to graze in the village’s agricultural fields, provoking the farmers and forcing them to hasten to drive off the cattle, which led to confrontations between the village residents and the settlers. Israeli soldiers in the area closed roads leading to the village and detained one of the injured Palestinians, said Sabbah, which made it difficult to determine what his condition was.
Settlers also attacked on Tuesday several Palestinian homes in the village of Madama, near the southern occupied West Bank city of Nablus, according to Ghassan Daghlas. The Palestinian monitor of Jewish construction said that a group of settlers from the illegal Israeli settlement of Yitzhar attacked homes in the southern part of the village.
Senior Israeli officials denounced on Friday, March 28, the firebombing by settlers of a Border Police jeep outside the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar earlier that morning. The occupation troops were leaving Yitzhar after having deployed in the area to enforce a closed military zone order around the illegal outpost of Kumi Ori, just southwest of the settlement. High-ranking officers of the Israeli Army, including the Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Aviv Kochavi, called the incident a “serious terror attack.” Government ministers refrained from such a designation, condemning it instead as an “act of violence.”
Settler violence against Palestinian civilians in the occupied territories is an almost daily occurrence, often sanctioned by the Israeli political and military establishment. While settlers are generally notorious for their violence against Palestinians, assaults on Palestinian farmers and shepherds have increased in frequency during the past few months. Their attacks include the arson of property and mosques, stone-throwing, uprooting of crops and the felling of olive trees, and attacks on vulnerable homes, among others.