In the intensive care room in the Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation (BASR) lies four-year-old Jibreel Sawarka. The Palestinian toddler is in an extremely critical condition after being hit in a car ramming attack by an Israeli settler in the Palestinian village of Kisan, east of Bethlehem in the Occupied West Bank.
Jibreel was playing near his house with his brother when the settler struck him with his car and then fled.
Jibreel’s father, Mohammed, said: “My 13-year-old Yehya came holding his brother covered in blood — it was a very gruesome sight.” Mohammed noted that the street where his son was attacked is used by both illegal Israeli settlers and Palestinians who live in Kisan. However, Palestinians are not allowed to drive down the road, instead they must walk the length of it. There have been multiple hit-and-run attacks on this stretch of road, and they have recently increased in frequency.
OCHA has documented 591 settler-related incidents resulting in Palestinian casualties, property damage or both in the first six months of 2023, reaching a monthly average of 99 attacks this year.
Settler terrorism has persisted in the occupied West Bank for years. The attacks have risen since Israel swore in its most right-wing government in December. Now, illegal settlers are in power in the Israeli Knesset and are working to legalise settler violence under the definition of “self-defence”, even as they incite violence and hate.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich outlined his “Decisive Plan”, a vision in which he called for “victory through settlement”. The plan, proposed and penned in 2017, would require “the encouragement of tens and hundreds of thousands of residents to come live in Judea and Samaria,” the Biblical name for the occupied West Bank, and almost double the number of settlers in the occupied territories.
The government has given Smotrich practically all control over the expansion of existing settlements.
During the past week alone, two Palestinian were executed by Israeli fire. In the town of Silwad, east of Ramallah, a 17-year-old Palestinian teenager succumbed to the wounds he sustained days before after an illegal Jewish settler opened fire at him while he was in a car near the illegal settlement of Ofra.
In a separate incident, armed Jewish settlers raided the Palestinian village of Burqa and opened fire at residents, executing 19-year-old Qusai Maatan. The teen’s father, Jammal, said: “My son was defending us.”
“When he heard the screaming of the villagers during the invasion, he ran out quickly to confront the Zionist settlers and stop them.” Qusai was the family’s bread-winner.
“We only have stones to prevent them from continuing to terrorise our people and razing our properties,” Jammal said, adding that the settlers also set fire to two Palestinian vehicles. “The settlers also brought their sheep to a plot of land in an apparent attempt to seize it for the benefit of establishing a pastoral outpost.”
Israeli newspaper Ynet News reported that recent Israeli terror attacks can be described as premeditated and well-organised acts of provocation, specifically designed to target Palestinian civilians.
The settler who murdered Maatan had served as a spokesperson for a member of Israel’s Knesset who is a member of racist minister Otamar Ben-Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit Party. He came from the illegal Ramat Migron outpost. After his arrest, he was released and the case was closed, with investigators convinced that the settler acted in self-defence. In a bold and clear statement, Ben-Gvir, Israel’s national security minister praised the murderer and indicated that he should get a “medal of honour.”
Haaretz also recently revealed videos of Israeli settlers, escorted by heavily armed occupation forces, invading Palestinian homes in the West Bank villages of Tuba and El-Abid in the southern Hebron Hills in the same week as the attack on Burqa. The video shows Israeli settlers ordering a Palestinian woman to open a storage closet in her home.
In another video, a settler is seen entering a home as a soldier stands at the entrance. Settler violence against Palestinians takes many forms, including setting fire to fields and livestock, physical violence, shooting, car rammings, theft and vandalism of property, trees and crops and intimidating farmers and their families, among other attacks.
This after less than a year of this right-wing government being in power, what awaits the Palestinian cause is extremely dangerous if the Israeli occupation authorities continue to fund and encourage the relentless Israeli settler violence and attacks.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.