An Israeli settler has been filmed harassing Palestinian children as they made their way to school on Sunday. The children were walking from Tuba to the nearest school in At-Tuwani, in the southernmost West Bank governorate of Hebron, when the incident occurred.
The settler, who resides in the unlawful Israeli settlement of Havat Maon, can be seen blocking the road with his car and telling the children, who are accompanied by international volunteers from Operation Dove, that they cannot pass his car until the Israeli occupation forces arrive.
The settler proceeds to film the children and volunteers as they continue along their route, and subsequently drives his vehicle directly at the children, blocking their path. As he exits his vehicle, he calls over nearby soldiers and lunges at children attempting to bypass his car, screaming at the group. The incident ends when soldiers hold the settler off, allowing the children and volunteers to continue their walk to school.
The day before the incident, settlers from Havat Maon were filmed entering Palestinian olive groves in the Humra Valley, where they destroyed eight olive trees.
Home to some of the most extreme settlers in the West Bank, Havat Maon was established in 2001 on Palestinian land in the South Hebron Hills without official Israeli government approval. By 2003, Palestinians living nearby had abandoned their lands due to ongoing attacks by the Havat Maon settlers, and the settlement expanded.
Such was the frequency of attacks against Palestinian school children in 2004 that the Israeli Knesset ordered the occupation forces to escort students as they passed the settlement. International volunteers from organisations including Operation Dove escort the children to school as the soldiers are often late or provide insufficient protection.
Settler violence against Palestinians is common throughout the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, where some 600,000 settlers live in over 200 settlements. Settlements are permanent, Jewish-only communities built on unlawfully occupied Palestinian land. They currently cover around 42 per cent of the West Bank, fracturing Palestinian communities and causing Palestinians to lose access to their land. Under international law, all Israeli settlements built in occupied Palestine are unlawful, and may constitute a war crime
Between January and April 2018, UN OCHA documented 84 incidents of settler violence, 27 of which resulted in Palestinian casualties, and 57 of which resulted in damage to Palestinian property; a 50 per cent increase from 2017.
Settlers typically attack Palestinians in groups, and attacks often feature stone-throwing and other physical violence, the burning of land and trees, and the vandalising of vehicles and other property. Occasionally, settlers commit extreme acts of violence against Palestinians, including through the use of live ammunition and explosives. In 2015, 18-month old Ali Dawabsheh and his parents burned to death after settlers set fire to their home in the northern West Bank village of Douma.
Israeli authorities have consistently failed to deal with settler violence. Since 2005, 82 per cent of investigations into ideologically motivated offences against Palestinians have been closed due to police failures. A pitiful 8.1 per cent of investigations led to an indictment. Israeli soldiers fail too to protect Palestinians when they witness settler attacks, and occasionally participate in the violence.
Report by Sawsan Bastawy, @SawsanHefny