West Bank Dispatch: the Zionist settler war state

Mondoweiss  /  April 10, 2023

The recent attacks on Al-Aqsa, the continued arrests and assassinations of resistance fighters, and the settler march on Sbeih Mountain point to a renewed commitment to the original Zionist ethos. This will inevitably lead to wide-ranging confrontation.

Key developments (April 7 – 10)

  • Earlier on Monday morning, April 10, Israeli forces invaded the Aqbat Jabr refugee camp and killed 18-year-old Mohammad Fayez Mohammad Oweidat. During the military invasion, Yasin Omar Izzat Hunaifa and Mohammad Eid Abu Dahouk, were also arrested.  Last month, Israeli forces invaded Aqbat Jabr and killed six Palestinians.
  • On Monday morning, April 10, at least seven Israeli ministers led thousands of Jewish settlers in a rally on Sbeih mountain in the town of Beita, 13 kilometers southeast of Nablus. At least one Palestinian journalist was injured, according to local journalists on the scene, while more than 121 Palestinians were injured within the first two hours, according to the Red Crescent. Since 2021, settlers have been trying to forcibly take over lands in the area, but have been obstructed through organized Palestinian confrontations.
  • The Israeli air force launched airstrikes on Syria over the weekend in a claim to target Iranianmilitary operatives and an Assadist Palestinian armed group in Syria.
  • Despite agreements during the Jordan-Egypt brokered joint communique last month, Israel approved six new Jewish settlementsin the West Bank. 
  • Hundreds of settlers continuearmed incursions on the Muslim holy space of worship, Al-Aqsa compound, for the fifth day of Passover.
  • Following Friday’s car ramming which resulted in the death of one Israeli and the injury of at least four others, the familyof a slain Palestinian refute police claims that it was a ramming attack and affirm it was a car accident. 


Last week, the Israeli assault on the Ramadan commons in Jerusalem threatened to devolve into an all-out war later in the week, when rockets were fired from Lebanon into the northern parts of the Israeli state’s borders in response to the Israeli provocations at Al-Aqsa. Some might have characterized this development as predictable, offering Netanyahu a convenient excuse to escape his internal crisis over his government’s proposed judicial overhaul by forcing Israeli unity in the face of an external threat. People in Gaza were predicting as much weeks earlier, fearing that the beleaguered strip would yet again be used as a chess piece in the internal battles of the Israeli regime. This is what led some to believe that the brutal repression of worshipers at Al-Aqsa last week was a deliberate Israeli provocation to goad Gaza into responding with rocket fire. What no one expected was for the rockets to be coming from Lebanon.

The Israeli security establishment insisted that Hezbollah did not launch the rockets, but instead that Hamas operatives were responsible — anything to avoid a direct confrontation with the dominant Lebanese political group, from whom Israel had suffered a military defeat during the 2006 invasion of Lebanon. Israeli security analysts echoed this cautious sentiment, albeit tinged with hysteria, believing the incident to be the “most dangerous and complex security situation Israel has faced on its northern border since the Second Lebanon War in August 2006.” 

The Israeli army fired on limited areas from which the rockets were launched, and days later, on April 8 and 9, rockets were fired from Syria into the Golan Heights by an Assadist Palestinian group. As before, Israel responded in an uncharacteristically limited fashion by firing at the site from which the rockets were launched. Gaza, on the other hand, was harder-hit, as an Israeli barrage tore through resistance sites in different parts of the Gaza Strip and fueled fears of the breakout of another war on Gaza, which remains Israel’s most convenient foil, and the deus ex machina of Israeli political crises.

Despite the regional turmoil, the twin assaults of the Israeli military and the rightwing settler movement on Palestinian communities have continued. The Israeli army invaded Aqbat Jabr refugee camp in Jericho and al-Ain refugee camp in Nablus, killing a resistance fighter and arresting many, while in the village of Beita, thousands of settlers led by Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich marched to the evacuated illegal Evyatar settlement, where the Israeli army injured hundreds of Palestinian counter-protestors from Beita.

That this settler and military assault has obstinately persisted unperturbed by the threat of war is illustrative of two things: first, that the settler takeover of the Israeli government has made the Zionist regime bolder and more faithful to the original liberal Zionist ethos (“maximum land with minimum Arabs”) than any government that preceded it; and second, that this antecedent commitment to colonial expansion at all costs, devoid of the pragmatic rationality of the founding Zionist generation — which was, at certain points, content to temporarily limit geographic designs in favor of maintaining “demographic purity,” and as a tacit concession to armed Palestinian resistance — will hurl Israel inevitably and inexorably into a direct confrontation, not only with Palestinians but anyone else who might attempt to defend them.

This singular reality just made the likelihood of a broader military confrontation more real. While neither the Israeli government nor Hezbollah truly want such a confrontation, the social forces at play within Israel will continue to create the conditions that no longer make it unfathomable.

All of this has been enabled by a single common thread that has run through the Aqsa crackdown, the attacks on armed resistance, and the settler marches on Sbeih Mountain — that Zionism has doubled down on its commitment to its original colonial imperative and that this renewed commitment means that the coming confrontation, no matter its shape, is closer than ever before.

Important figures

  • Since the beginning of the year, and in the course of 100  days, more than 98 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and settlers. As of March, 14 Israelis have been killed.
  • Israel renews at least 800 administrative detention (AD) ordersin the first quarter of 2023, reaching the highest record of arbitrary arrests by Israel since 2003. 
  • Since 2021, more than 32,089 Palestinians have been injured by Israeli forces and settlers, 92% of whom were in the West Bank.
  • Since January and until March 30,more than 413 Palestinians were displaced as a result of Israeli demolitions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
  • Since the start of the year, at least 100 Palestinians were arrested from Jericho alone, with most arrests concentrated in the Aqbat Jabr refugee camp. This includes the imprisonment of immediate family members of Palestinians killed during Israeli extrajudicial assassinations.

The Mondoweiss Palestine Bureau are the Mondoweiss staff members based in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip