Huwwara – a microcosm of the Israeli occupation

Huwwara clashes

Yumna Patel

Mondoweiss  /  October 18, 2022

The other day I traveled to the Nablus district, to the town of Huwwara, to report on a settler attack on the town from the day before.

Huwwara is the same town that, for months this year, was the subject of an Israeli settler and soldier campaign to remove any symbols of the Palestinian flag in the town. Day and night, settlers would pass through the main road of the town (which leads to some of the most extremist and violent settlements in the West Bank) and tear down any of the flags they saw.

Some days they would stage their own demonstrations, flying Israeli flags in the center of the main road, while armed soldiers protected them. Other days they would egg the soldiers on, who turned their weapons on any Palestinian who dared to tear down the Israeli flag that had been forced on their streets, or raise a Palestinian flag in defiance.

Since the settlers’ war on the Palestinian flag in the town, the Israeli military has upped the number of troops it stations there there, and maintained a near constant presence along the main road. Every few hundred meters, you’ll find Israeli snipers, military jeeps, and soldiers, positioned and ready.

That has been the reality in Huwwara for the past few months. Now let’s go back to last week.

For four days, the Israeli settlers of the Nablus area – again, some of the most notoriously violent, ideological settlers – launched a series of attacks on the town.

I went there on the second day.

I was on the outskirts of the town, talking to a man whose coffee shop was burned down by the settlers. His neighbor’s, who own a local amusement park, had their cars and homes pounded with stones, and a bus and a truck set on fire. Their olive groves were also set ablaze.

This man’s entire livelihood, that he used to feed his family, was burned down in an hour. And it all happened under the supervision of Israeli soldiers, who protected the masked, armed settlers, and fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the Palestinians when they tried to defend themselves.

On that same day, other settlers, masked and armed with guns, knives, axes, and bats, attacked the main road of the town, vandalizing shops and attacking Palestinians. Their attack continued through the night.

While I was there, just minutes after Friday prayers had ended, we heard the sounds of sound bombs going off in the town, down by the main road. Then we heard the live bullets. Then came the sound of the mosques, calling out on the loudspeakers to the residents of Huwwara, telling them to come to the main road to defend their town.

The settlers were launching their second attack.

We put our press vests on, and headed down to the main road of the town. The army had blocked off many of the side roads with dirt mounds – a collective punishment on the town that had started back in the summer, during the settler’s offensive on the flag.

When we arrived, we encountered groups of young Palestinian men and boys from the town, armed with rocks and slingshots, confronting Israeli soldiers, armed with guns.

As the young men threw rocks, in an effort to defend the shops and homes on the main road of the town, the soldiers fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition at them. Meanwhile, the settlers continued their rampage in full view of the soldiers.

Without the protection of the army, the residents told us, the settlers wouldn’t be able to do what they were doing.

People had no idea how to assess the damage done to their homes and businesses the day before, because the attacks were still ongoing as we spoke.

After hours in the town, as we spoke to residents about the continued attacks on their lives, their homes, and their businesses, we left Huwwara.

For the next two days, the residents of the town, and thousands of Palestinians from other villages across the Nablus area underwent more settler attacks of the same nature.

The violence, neither from the settlers or the soldiers, did not stop.

What happened in Huwwara for those four days was a microcosm of the Israeli occupation: the collusion and incitement between the state and the settlers, both entities enabling one another in their continued occupation and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.

It’s a reality that I witness, in different forms, every day when reporting in the occupied West Bank.

It’s a reality that has been ongoing for 74 years, with little to no attention, or action, from the international community.

At the end of my interviews, I like to ask Palestinians what their message is to the world, or to the international community.

That day in Huwwara, every person said they were tired of appealing to a world that has turned its cheek to them and their suffering for so long. No one had anything to say, except that this is their daily reality, and the world should have woken up by now.

Yumna Patel is the Palestine News Director for Mondoweiss