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West Bank Palestinians ethnically cleansed by Israeli settlers amid genocide in Gaza 

November 21, 2023 at 3:06 pm

A settler stands guard at the checkpoint entrance to Mitzpe Yair, an Israeli settlement that sits close to the town of Susya, Occupied West Bank, November 9, 2023 [Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images]

Illegal Israeli settlers have exploited the chaos of the brutal war against Palestinians in Gaza to expand their campaign of violently expelling Palestinians from their homes, according to a Haaretz exposé. These state-backed settler militias have embarked on a campaign of population transfer amid the genocide in Gaza.

Since the fighting in Gaza began last month, the Palestinian residents of sixteen shepherding communities across the occupied West Bank have been forced to flee after settler threats. The South Hebron Hills are now ruled by settler “defence squads” who act with total impunity.

“The community defence squads have the authority to arrest anyone they want and do whatever they want,” B’Tselem field researcher and guide Nasser Nawaj’ah is reported as saying by Haaretz. Settlers don Israeli military uniforms as they terrorise Palestinian villages.

These illegal settlers — all settlers and their settlements are illegal under international law — are said to have grown “wilder than ever”. In recent weeks, they have blocked all roads leading to Palestinian villages in the region using large boulders. The village of Sussia, for example, is home to over 300 Palestinians, but has been cut off by sixteen such roadblocks; some are even erected in the middle of the villagers’ fields. The village is now completely inaccessible by car.

“Not even a fly can get here,” said Nawaj’ah. According to data from B’Tselem, 149 newly displaced Palestinian families have had to run for their lives and will never be able to return home. This amounts to population transfer under the cover of war.

OPINION: In both the old and new Nakba, the forced expulsion of Palestinians must be rejected

The same pattern of terror and ethnic cleansing is repeated in every Palestinian village. Settlers, sometimes masked and in military uniforms, arrive at night to threaten and intimidate residents. They’ve held guns to children’s heads, destroyed cars and other property, emptied villagers’ water tanks, torn open sacks of grain, killed livestock and destroyed possessions, all while delivering 24-hour ultimatums for the Palestinians to leave.

Terrified Palestinian residents are told that if they don’t abandon their homes within a day, the settlers will come back under cover of darkness to inflict violent reprisals. Using such brutal tactics, settlers are systematically coercing village after village into forced displacement.

Haaretz investigated ransacked villages across the South Hebron Hills and found tents standing empty, their residents terrorised into exile. Israel’s flag now flies brazenly over conquered Palestinian areas. With the world’s focus on Gaza, Israel and its settlers are essentially given free rein to ethnically cleanse Palestinians and entrench permanent occupation.

With the terrorism by Israeli settlers against Palestinians reaching new heights, a petition has been submitted to the Israeli High Court of Justice on behalf of six Palestinian villages in Area C of the occupied West Bank. The petition urges the Israel Defence Forces, the Israel Police and other state entities to protect Palestinians from harassment and displacement caused by violence perpetrated by extremist settlers and Israeli soldiers.

READ: Settlers destroy Palestinian property in south of Hebron