B’Tselem – In May 2021, Israel established a new settlement, known as the Evyatar outpost, on land belonging to the towns of Beita and Qabalan and the village of Yatma atop Mount (Jabal) Sabih. The move was carried out by the settler movement Nachala, with the assistance of the Samaria Regional Council and the military’s consent. Settlers previously tried to take over the land by establishing an outpost in 2013, 2016, and 2018, but the Civil Administration was quick to demolish the structures every time. This time, Israel left the outpost in place.
The outpost controls an area of 36 dunams [1 dunam = 1,000 sq. meters], according to a calculation commissioned from Kerem Navot by B’Tselem. It partly covers private Palestinian land and partly land Israel considers “survey land.” The outpost includes about 50 permanent structures, a playground, a synagogue, a religious study hall, a grocery store, a power grid, and fully-paved roads. According to the outpost’s Facebook page, it was established to create a wedge between the town of Qabalan and the village of Yatma, to the south of Route 505, and the town of Beita to the north.
In early July 2021, the outpost was evacuated after the settlers signed an agreement with the government. Under the agreement, all the structures in the outpost would remain in place and the settlers living in them would leave, while the government examined the status of the land. If the outpost could be “legalized,” some of the settlers would be able to return, and a military yeshiva program (hesder) would be established there. As part of the agreement, the military maintains a permanent presence at the outpost.
Even before a decision regarding “legal” approval of the outpost, and ever since it was established, the military has prevented Palestinian farmers from accessing hundreds of dunams of their land adjacent to it. This restriction affects about 80 families of farmers from Beita and Yatma.
In August 2021, the Israeli High Court of Justice denied a petition filed by the Palestinian landowners against the establishment of the outpost, on the grounds that land ownership in the area was still under examination. The examination was completed, according to media reports, in October 2021. In recent weeks, the media have reported that the state is considering a “compromise” according to which the yeshiva that was dismantled in the outpost of Homesh will be rebuilt in Evyatar. Just before the end of his term, the outgoing attorney general approved the “land survey” results and expediting planning procedures at the site. The government can now, according to its logic, go ahead with “legalizing” the outpost and founding the yeshiva there.
The town of Beita, on whose land the outpost was established, lies south of the city of Nablus and is home to some 9,000 Palestinians. Since the outpost was established, the town residents have been protesting the takeover of their land. They hold nightly demonstrations on the outskirts of the town, as well as mass protests on Fridays, which include a march towards the outpost with hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of participants. Prayers are held at the beginning of each protest, usually followed by clashes in which young Palestinians light tires and throw stones at Israeli security forces. The latter violently suppress the protests with massive amounts of tear gas – scattered also from drones and jeep-mounted launchers – and fire rubber-coated metal bullets, sponge rounds, and live ammunition, including 0.22-inch caliber bullets (Two-Twos) issued by snipers.
To date, seven residents of Beita have been killed throughout the demonstrations or near them. In addition, according to UN figures1, about 180 people have been injured by live fire, another 1,000 or so by “rubber” bullets and sponge rounds, and more than 4,200 have suffered from tear gas inhalation. Another Beita resident was killed near the town’s water mains. A resident of Yatma was killed during a demonstration against the establishment of the outpost held in his village.
In addition to implementing a lethal open-fire policy, Israeli security forces have arrested dozens of town residents since the protests began. To wear down the protesters, the military closed off the main entrance to the town for a month and a half, and military bulldozers blocked and dug up agricultural roads leading to the demonstration flashpoints, damaging about a kilometer of agricultural terraces and some 2,000 trees about a kilometer away from the outpost. The deputy council head of Beita told B’Tselem that Israel revoked the work permits of about 150 residents. Soldiers also used severe violence against Israeli protesters who came to the demonstrations to show solidarity with the Palestinian protesters and arrested them on false pretenses.
Evyatar was established on Palestinian land – not on the private initiative of several settlers, but as part of Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank, with the full cooperation of all the relevant Israeli authorities. However, the state is not content with appropriating the land and building a settlement there. It also insists on forbidding the Palestinian residents from protesting these acts and forcibly prevents any attempt at resistance — including with lethal force. Let us reiterate: the establishment of settlements is illegal under international law, and the International Criminal Court in the Hague is currently investigating Israel’s policy on the matter. Israel’s choice to prevent area residents from protesting the establishment of Evyatar, to implement a lethal open-fire policy in circumstances that do not endanger soldiers’ lives, and to uphold this policy even after its fatal outcomes have become clear – adds insult to injury.
Below is a list of the Palestinians killed during these protests and the situation they were killed in.
‘Issa Suliman Barham Barham
A 40-year-old resident of Beita. Killed on 14 May 2021. Soldiers shot and wounded him in the abdomen while he was standing near his car, during a demonstration against the establishment of the outpost on townland. Died of his wounds a short while later.
Tareq ‘Omar Ahmad Snobar
A 27-year-old resident of Yatma. Wounded on 14 May 2021 and died on 16 May 2021. Soldiers shot him in the chest while Palestinians were throwing stones at them at the entrance to the village of Yatma, to protest the establishment of the outpost and Israel’s operation in the Gaza Strip.
Zakaria Maher ‘Abd al-Hamid Fallah
A 25-year-old resident of Beita. Killed on 28 May 2021. Soldiers shot him in the chest during a demonstration against the establishment of the outpost on town land.
Muhammad Sa’id Muhammad HamayelA 16-year-old resident of Beita. Killed on 11 June 2021. Shot by soldiers during a demonstration against the establishment of the outpost on town land.
Ahmad Zahi Ibrahim Bani Shamsah
A 15-year-old resident of Beita. Wounded on 16 June 2021 and died on 17 June 2021. Soldiers shot him in the back of the head after he hung a Palestinian flag on a tree, in an area where Palestinians demonstrate against the establishment of the outpost on town land.
Shadi ‘Omar Lutfi Salim
A 41-year-old resident of Beita. Killed on 27 July 2021. Soldiers shot him near the town’s water mains. The next day, metal plumbing tools were found on the spot. Salim, who was a plumber, had gone there several times before to fix the mains. He died of his wounds a short while later. Israel held his body until 10 August 2021.
‘Imad ‘Ali Muhammad Dweikat
A 38-year-old resident of Beita. Killed on 6 August 2021. Israeli security forces shot him in the chest from several hundred meters away, during a demonstration against the establishment of the outpost on town land.
Muhammad ‘Ali Muhammad Khabisah
A 28-year-old resident of Beita. Killed on 24 September 2021. Israeli security forces shot him in the head during a demonstration against the establishment of the outpost on town land.
Jamil Jamal Ahmad Abu ‘Ayash
A 32-year-old resident of Beita. Killed on 10 December 2021. Soldiers shot him in the head from 200 meters away during a demonstration against the establishment of the outpost on town land. Died of his wounds a short while later.