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Palestinians find “no protection” from Israeli settler attacks

Isolated communities in Area C are particularly at risk, and the Israeli military, which as per the Oslo accords is meant to prevent its own citizens from attacking Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, often either turns a blind eye or actively participates in the attacks.

Jerusalem24 – A huge spike in Israeli settler attacks against Palestinian persons and property has been recorded since the Israeli military’s invasion of Jenin refugee camp last Thursday which killed 10 Palestinians, and two subsequent shooting attacks in occupied East Jerusalem which killed seven Israeli settlers.

B’Tselem listed on Wednesday dozens of documented settler attacks in the occupied West Bank, which began last Thursday followed by a further spike in attacks after the shooting in occupied East Jerusalem on Friday.

Among the documented settler attacks were three cases of physical assault and three cases of live ammunition used against Palestinians.

B’Tselem emphasized these constitute only “a partial list” of the likely total number of incidents. Palestinian activists recorded on Sunday night 144 settler attacks which occurred in the space of a few hours only in the Nablus governorate, less than 48 hours after an Israeli settler injured three Palestinians in a shooting attack in the village of Beita.

Moayan Shaaban of the Settlements and Wall Resistance Committee called on Sunday to reform the nightwatch committees to protect the isolated Palestinian communities most vulnerable to settler attacks.

Security coordination is “a one-way street”

“In 14 of the incidents, soldiers who were present acted as security guards for the settlers,” B’Tselem additionally reported. “And in 4 [cases], they fired tear gas canisters, stun grenades, and live or “rubber” bullets at Palestinians.”

“This is no failure of the law enforcement system, but an unofficial policy designed to perpetuate Jewish supremacy by means of civilian violence,” B’Tselem stated.

As per the security coordination deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority stipulated in the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement (which followed the Oslo Accords), Israel is supposed to prevent attacks perpetrated by its own citizens in the occupied West Bank. However, in addition to Israeli soldiers actively protecting settlers as they commit attacks, those same settlers almost never face legal repercussions.

“This is one of the traps of the Oslo agreements,” lawyer and political analyst Diana Buttu tells Jerusalem24. “If we’re following the Oslo agreements, which says that each government must deal with its own, this means that Palestinians deal with Palestinians, and Israelis deal with Israelis. Yet the Israelis don’t. Not only do they not arrest Israelis who we know are perpetrating attacks against Palestinians, but they sometimes give the green light to the settlers, or give them protection.”

Buttu believes that the idea that Israel and Israeli settlers are “allowed to do whatever they want”, shows “just how weak, poor, and bankrupt” the Oslo accords are.

“The problem is that we as Palestinians should be challenging the Oslo accords which died a long time ago,” she says. “We shouldn’t be limiting ourselves to that framework. Instead, I truly believe that if a settler is perpetrating attacks in our territory, they should be arrested.”

Buttu says the security coordination is unpopular amongst the Palestinian public “because it’s a one-way street”.

“It’s only about the PA doing Israel’s dirty work, it’s never about protecting Palestinians.”

Several houses in Turmusaya north of Ramallah were targeted by settlers on Sunday, 29 January 2023. [Source: media]

Isolated communities particularly at risk

Palestinian villages in Area C of the occupied West Bank, and those close to illegal Israeli settlements or outposts, are most at risk of Israeli army violations and settler attacks.

This is especially true in the Jordan Valley, 94% of which is classified as Area C.

In Al-Auja village north of Jericho, a group of settlers tried to torch a house on Monday night after storming the village, according to activist Thaer Noujum who monitors violations in the area.

And two weeks ago, a group of Israeli settlers attacked a group of Palestinian and foreign hikers on the outskirts of Al-Auja with sticks and pepper spray, breaking an Italian hiker’s arm.

On Saturday, Israeli settlers blocked Palestinian passage at the Ein Al-Hilweh and Machola junctions in the northern Jordan Valley, according to Rashid Khudiri, an activist with the grassroots network of organizations Jordan Valley Solidarity.

Khudiri emphasizes that each of these settler attacks happened under the watchful eye of the Israeli military.

“Settlers always lead these attacks with the support and protection of the forces,” Khudiri tells Jerusalem24.

In addition to physical assaults and intimidation, Palestinian residents of the Jordan Valley, whose livelihoods mostly depend on agriculture, have registered severe material losses since last week’s spike in attacks.

Settlers destroyed three vegetable stalls as well as greenhouses and crops near Bardala and Ein Al-Biyda in the northern Jordan Valley. Jordan Valley Solidarity estimates each farmer’s loss stands at around 10,000 shekels.

The grassroots network’s purpose is to contain the fallout on the farmers’ livelihoods from such acts of vandalism.

“We try to help farmers in their movement, we will build back what the settlers destroy, we support each other,” explains Khudiri. “The farmers keep going because this is their only main source of income to help their families.”

But solidarity alone won’t be enough to shield the residents of the valley from harm.

“This is settler terrorism against Palestinian civilians in the Jordan Valley,” says Khudiri, “to scare our farmers from accessing their lands and to displace Palestinians.”

Israeli settlers destroyed a vegetable stall in the northern Jordan Valley, Sunday 29 January 2023. [Source: media]

Nadeen Alshaer

Alshaer is a Palestinian journalist, a Birzeit University graduate with a B.A. in TV and Radio Broadcasting Journalism. Alshaer has 6 years of experience in journalism. She currently works as a reporter, editor and presenter/producer for PBC-Palestine TV and Jerusalem24 radio. She’s a UN and Kelley School of Business alumna.

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