BY SOPHIE CROWE – SEPTEMBER 23, 2011
In the past month, reports of settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank have increased dramatically, as settlers prepare for the PLO’s request for recognition of a Palestinian state in the United Nations.
In July, settler violence in Al Baqa’a, a village in the Ramallah governorate, caused a whole community to leave and resettle elsewhere.
OCHA reports that the majority of Palestinians injured by the Israeli military in the week beginning August 26 involved confrontations with settlers. For example, a 23-year-old man was shot and injured with live bullets on 26 August when a conflict ensued between Palestinians and settlers, after the latter set fire to trees in Kusra, a village near Nablus.
The amount of Palestinians injured by settlers during the week beginning 26 August rose in comparison to the same period last year from 71 to 123.
On August 27, a group of settlers attacked a ten-year-old boy by the village of Jaba’, near Jerusalem, beating him around the head with an iron rod. He sustained severe injuries. The settlers also killed five of his sheep by beating them with batons.
Then on 2 September, after settlers tried to set fire to houses in Jalud, several Palestinians were hospitalized after Israeli military forces fired tear gas on them.
The majority of these attacks were perpetrated as part of the settlers’ “price tag” operation, a strategy involving the collective punishment of Palestinians in retaliation for the Israeli government’s tentative moves to challenge Israeli settlers’ setting up of illegal buildings on Palestinian land.
On 5 September, the Israeli government organized the demolition of several dwellings in the unauthorised outpost of Migron, in the Ramallah governorate. Since then, settlers have been exacting their revenge by targeting Palestinians and their property for harassment and assault.
One tactic used is arson. The Migron demolition prompted settlers from the area to set fire to the bottom floor of a mosque in Kusra,which is close to the outpost. They also sprayed offensive graffiti on the outer walls of the mosque, along with a Star of David.
In Jalud, settlers started fires near Palestinian houses. Both villages are in the Nablus governorate. Days later, settlers vandalized the entrance to Birzeit University in Birzeit village.
On 5 September, a Palestinian university professor was injured when settlers threw rocks at his car as he drove along the Ramallah-Nablus road.
On 9 September, settlers burned down a residential tent in the village of Susiya, near Hebron, in the southern West Bank. One man was injured as a result while the family of 12 that lived in the tent were displaced.
In the week beginning 7 September, OCHA documented 16 settler attacks that resulted in the damage of trees or vehicles. In five isolated incidents, settlers uprooted, burned or cut down 390 olive and grape trees, bringing the total number of trees destroyed since the beginning of 2011 to 6,680. The number of incidents that ended in injury to Palestinian people or their property has risen compared to the same period last year, from 193 to 296.
Two men were injured and one hospitalized near Nablus on 13 September, after teenagers from Yitzhar settlement threw stones at their car.
Settlers recently attacked Jalazone refugee camp near Ramallah, setting fire to an entire plantation of olive trees. When a Palestinian fire brigade arrived at the scene, the Israeli Defence Forces would not allow them to enter and stop the fire.
The same week, OCHA reported, in five separate incidents, settlers threw stones at or set fire to Palestinian vehicles, causing significant damage to nine of them in the Ramallah and Nablus area.
Settlers also attacked a military base in response to the Ramat Migron demolition, slashing the tires of 16 vehicles and spray-painting the walls with the phrase, “Price tag. Greetings from Migron.”
In a recent open letter to the United Nations, the Council of Palestinian Human Rights Organizations noted that researchers from the human rights organization Al-Haq documented 24 instances of settler attacks against Palestinians and their property, mostly in the Nablus governorate. Fifteen cases of violence were reported in the first week of September alone, many including settlers throwing rocks at Palestinian cars.
The council stated, “We are deeply concerned that incidents are likely to rise in the next month because of the commencement of the olive harvest season and the upcoming Palestinian initiative for membership at the United Nations.”