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Zionist Settlers Run Roughshod In The Occupied Territories

Illegal zionist settler attacks on Palestinians have substantially escalated following the Hamas assault in southern Israel on October 7 and Israel’s ongoing airstrikes on the besieged Gaza Strip which has killed 20000 Palestinians so far.

Israeli settlements refer to Jewish communities established on Palestinian territory. Most settlers are armed, and Palestinians residing in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem experience numerous vicious attacks by Israeli settlers annually. These incidents, ranging from shootings, stabbings, arson, beatings to rock-throwing, have displayed an increasing level of organization in recent years. Video recordings of many of these events indicate that the attacks frequently occur with the protection or coordination of the Israeli army. In some instances, soldiers and settlers are seen shooting side by side. These attacks result in the burning of thousands of Palestinian trees and cars each year.

Between 2010 and 2019, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs documented a minimum of 2,955 settler attacks. These incidents resulted in at least 22 Palestinians being killed and at least 1,258 others sustaining injuries. The governorates of Nablus, Hebron, and Ramallah experienced the highest number of such occurrences. [1]

Since the commencement of 2023, incidents of Israeli settler-related violence rose to an average of three per day. This is an increase compared to two incidents per day in 2022 and one incident per day in 2021, according to the UN. It marks the highest daily average of settler-related incidents affecting Palestinians since 2006. [1]

Over the past few weeks, settlers have been responsible for the deaths of nine Palestinians, as reported by Palestinian health authorities. Palestinian Authority official Ghassan Daghlas stated that over 3,000 olive trees were destroyed during the crucial harvest season, representing inheritances passed down through generations. Additionally, these settlers have targeted herding communities, resulting in the displacement of over 900 people from 15 hamlets they had considered home for an extended period, according to the U.N. [2]

In response to inquiries about settler attacks, the Israeli army provided a general statement, flaccidly stating that its aim is to defuse conflict, and troops are obligated to take action if Israeli citizens violate the law. The army did not offer comments on specific incidents despite requests for clarification.

Rights organizations state that settlers have set vehicles on fire and assaulted various small Bedouin communities, forcing them to relocate to different areas. However, it would be an error to disregard the escalating danger of settler violence in the past month.

This seems to be the strategy of militant settlers and nationalist extremists within Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government – staunch supporters of expanding the Jewish presence in occupied territories. Reports indicate a notable increase in the number of Palestinians displaced or killed in clashes with the Israeli Army since Oct. 7. While right-wing extremists use the Hamas attack as justification, they also recognize that diverting global and Israeli attention from the West Bank provides cover for more ambitious land acquisitions.

The number of Israeli settlements in the West Bank surpasses the officially acknowledged count by Israel, with over 100 illegal settler outposts. Data from the settler site West Bank Jewish Population Stats indicates that the population exceeded 500,000 in January, projected to surpass one million by 2047. Baruch Gordon, a contributor to a recent report by the site, noted that this population growth underscores the enduring nature of the Jewish presence in the West Bank. While opponents of the settlements anticipate their removal through a globally negotiated peace deal, Gordon emphasized that the substantial population milestone of half a million signifies a lasting presence, asserting, “we’re here to stay.”[3]

The West Bank settlements equate to approximately 11 percent of the entire Jewish Israeli population. These individuals reside outside the “internationally recognized” borders of their country, on Palestinian territory that Israel seized militarily in 1967 and still holds today. Settlers also used to inhabit the blockaded Gaza Strip until their evacuation in 2005.[4]

The immediate concern is the potential for large-scale violence erupting in the West Bank, which could surpass previous uprisings in bloodshed and destruction. Since Oct. 7, the Israeli Army has imposed stricter travel restrictions and intensified raids on suspected militant hideouts in the West Bank. However, they conveyed a prevailing sense of anger in the West Bank, emphasizing that any incident could trigger a surge of fury in the streets. On Nov 9, at least 10 Palestinians were reportedly killed and 20 injured in an Israeli Army raid in a refugee camp in Jenin, a frequent target.

The settler’s blatant belligerence has resulted in a rare condemnation from Israel’s strongest ally, the United States. Voicing his concern over the tensions, President Biden stated , “I continue to be alarmed about extremist settler attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank; pouring gasoline on fire is what it’s like. It has to stop now.” Additionally, the administration secured assurances from Israel that the American assault weapons requested would not be distributed to civilians in West Bank settlements.[5]

Despite this, Prime Minister Netanyahu has shown little interest in restraining his allies. While forming a special war cabinet to manage the campaign against Hamas, his coalition government, including religious-nationalist extremists Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, remains intact. They are staunch advocates of settling Jews in the West Bank. Before the Hamas raid, the far-right government sought “judicial reform,” facing opposition in Israel for its perceived attempt to free the government from judicial constraints in occupied territory.

Despite the focus on Gaza, extremists have persisted. Smotrich proposed expanding Palestinian no-go areas around Israeli settlements, including banning Palestinians from harvesting olives near the settlements. Ben-Gvir downplayed concerns about settler violence, dismissing it as mere “graffiti” by Israeli youths on Palestinian property.

On 30 October a horrific incident was widely shared on social media showing an armed gang of Jewish settlers confronting a Palestinian vendor Bilal Mohammad Saleh and his family while picking olives. A  paramilitary Israeli settler fatally shot Bilal in the chest while he was harvesting olives on his property in the central West Bank town of As-Sawiya, located east of Salfit, as confirmed by the Ministry of Health. Saleh sustained a critical injury, and the difficulty in transporting him to the hospital led to a significant loss of blood.

As is customary during the Palestinian olive season, the majority of the family had gathered to assist. Bilal’s wife, four children, siblings, and additional family members were present when he was shot in the chest by an Israeli settler, all while being observed by the Israeli army.

“Bilal was a humble, hardworking man of the land,” stated his uncle Taiseer Shaheen. “Throughout his life, he faced challenges, starting from a young age when he became an orphan.”

Taiseer, who was with Bilal and other relatives on Saturday morning, expressed, “The soldiers were aware that the settlers intended to attack us and did not intervene to prevent it.”

Bilal’s wife, Ikhlas, devastated by the death of her husband, said . “He just wanted to protect me and the kids. We were scared when the settlers got too close to us and he went to confront them. None of us expected them to shoot him like that.” [6]

Also, in the West Bank Palestinians have discovered menacing pamphlets placed under their car windshield wipers, containing messages such as: “Imminent disaster awaits you. We intend to eliminate all adversaries and forcibly remove you from our sacred land, bestowed upon us by God. Wherever you may be, pack up swiftly and depart to your place of origin. Our approach is imminent”.

The establishment of Israeli settlements is not a recent initiative; they began to emerge shortly after Israel gained control of a significant portion of the West Bank during the Six-Day War in 1967. Despite widespread international condemnation of the settlements as illegal, they have consistently expanded. The Oslo Accords of 1993, which granted limited self-rule to Palestinians, designated the settlements as a matter to be addressed in future negotiations. However, this issue remains unresolved, and the settlements have continued to grow. According to Israeli law, Jewish residents in these settlements are treated as Israeli citizens, while their Palestinian counterparts, without a recognized state, live under brutal military occupation and endure daily threats from violent Zionist fanatics.

[1] https://www.ochaopt.org/content/casualties-thousands-killed-conflict-related-incidents

[2] https://www.pbs.org/newshour/world/israeli-settler-attacks-on-west-bank-palestinians-have-escalated-since-oct-7-un-says

[3] https://westbankjewishpopulationstats.com/blog/

[4] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/3/3/israeli-settler-attacks-against-palestinians-by-the-numbers

[5] https://www.aljazeera.com/gallery/2023/11/10/photos-israel-raids-in-west-bank-intensify

[6] https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2023/10/30/bilal-went-out-to-harvest-his-olives-an-israeli-settler-shot-him

Tariq Kurd was born and grew up in Hertfordshire. His family is originally from Halabja, Kurdistan but due to periodic migration currently reside across the Baluchistan region.
He has a BA Hons. in History from the Open University. Besides English, Tariq can speak Baluchi and Brahvi, he is also conversant in Persian and Pashto.
His has an eclectic range of interests including military and tribal history. Tariq lives in London and is currently studying Islamic apologetics through the Sapience Institute.