Middle East Eye / May 1, 2023
A group of Jewish settlers physically assaulted two Palestinian men while visiting their land, as settler violence surges.
A group of settlers assaulted and wounded two Palestinians on Monday in the latest attack against farmers, amid a rise in settler violence in the occupied West Bank.
Khaled Salah, 50, and Mahmoud Faroniya, 51, were trying to access their land in Burqa village near Nablus, north of the West Bank, when around eight settlers approached them in a car, and then proceeded to get out of the vehicle and attack them.
“When we saw them, we started to move away because we knew that they were going to attack us,” Salah told Middle East Eye.
“My friend managed to run away, but my movement was slow, so they got out of the vehicle and attacked me with sticks and stones until I lost the ability to move.”
The 50-year-old suffered bruises all over his body, a concussion, and a broken hand and nose.
He was taken to the hospital along with Mahmoud Faroniya, who was also wounded from stones thrown at him during the assault.
While Israeli settler violence against Palestinians is common in the West Bank, attacks have grown in recent years at an alarming rate, according to UN human rights experts.
UN figures show settler attacks have been on a year-to-year upward trend since 2016, with at least 849 attacks recorded in 2022 – 228 of which led to casualties.
According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Israeli forces said they were investigating the assault on Monday.
Human rights groups have previously accused Israeli authorities of enabling settler violence and failing to prosecute Israeli offenders or protect Palestinians.
Only three percent of investigations into settler violence led to a conviction between 1995-2022, according to Israeli NGO Yesh Din.
Salah told MEE this wasn’t the first time they came under attack while Israeli soldiers did nothing.
“At the time of the attack, the Israeli soldiers were in Homesh (a nearby Jewish settlement outpost). They watched everything and did nothing,” he added.
The plight of Palestinians in Burqa started in 1978 when Israel confiscated 1,050 dunams from Mounts al-Zuhur and al-Qubaybat in the village to establish a military base.
The military outpost was soon transformed into what is known as the Homesh settlement, whose radius of control extends to 4,000 dunams.
In 2005, the Israeli government evacuated settlers from Homesh, along with settlers in the Gaza Strip and five other settlements and military bases near Jenin, as part of its unilateral disengagement plan.
Since then, the army has closed off the area for the Palestinians that owned the land while settlers continued to come back to maintain their presence, establishing a makeshift yeshiva, or religious seminary, in contravention of Israeli law.
In 2013, after many lawsuits filed by the farmers, the Israeli High Court ruled that Homesh was a private Palestinian landholding belonging to its farmers and that an Israeli presence there was not permissible.
Dirar Abu Omar, a Palestinian anti-settlement activist from Burqa, told MEE that despite the decision, Palestinians still can’t access their lands and when they do, they are often attacked by settlers who have maintained a de facto outpost there in breach of the court order.
“The danger from the Homesh outpost lies not only in the confiscation of hundreds of dunums from Burqa but also the threat of confiscating tens of thousands of dunums as part of the extended settlement plan,” Abu Omar said.
On the rare occasion that residents can visit their lands and plant certain trees through aid and charitable organizations, settlers would promptly uproot them and fill the water wells with rocks.
The Israeli parliament voted last month in favour of allowing settlers back to West Bank settlements dismantled in 2005, including Homesh, pending an approval from an Israeli military commander.
Nearly 700,000 Jewish settlers live in more than 250 Jewish settlements and outposts across the West Bank and East Jerusalem in violation of international law.
Fayha Shalash is a Palestinian journalist based in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank