Creating new perspectives since 2009

HRW: Israel soldiers supporting settler attacks on Palestinians

Israeli occupation forces have helped settlers displace Palestinians from 20 communities and completely uproot 7 communities in the occupied West Bank since 7 October 2023, an investigation by Human Rights Watch has found. UN figures show there were over 700 Israeli settler attacks on Palestinians in the last 6 months, at least half of which were carried out in the presence of Israeli soldiers.

April 17, 2024 at 1:24 pm

The Israeli military either took part in or did not protect Palestinians from violent settler attacks in the occupied West Bank that have displaced people from 20 communities and have entirely uprooted at least seven communities since 7 October 2023, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said today.

“Israeli settlers have assaulted, tortured, and committed sexual violence against Palestinians, stolen their belongings and livestock, threatened to kill them if they did not leave permanently, and destroyed their homes and schools under the cover of the ongoing hostilities in Gaza,” HRW said. Many Palestinians, including entire communities, have fled their homes and lands.

“The military has not assured displaced residents that it will protect their security or allow them to return, forcing them to live in precarious conditions elsewhere,” it added.

“Settlers and soldiers have displaced entire Palestinian communities, destroying every home, with the apparent backing of higher Israeli authorities,” said Bill Van Esveld, associate children’s rights director at HRW. “While the attention of the world is focused on Gaza, abuses in the West Bank, fuelled by decades of impunity and complacency among Israel’s allies, are soaring.”

The rights group investigated attacks that forcibly displaced all residents of Khirbet Zanuta and Khirbet Al-Ratheem south of Hebron, Al-Qanub east of Hebron, and Ein Al-Rashash and Wadi al-Seeq, east of Ramallah, in October and November 2023. “The evidence shows that armed settlers, with the active participation of army units, repeatedly cut off road access and raided Palestinian communities, detained, assaulted, and tortured residents, chased them out of their homes and off their lands at gunpoint or coerced them to leave with death threats, and blocked them from taking their belongings.”

Settler attacks on Palestinians increased in 2023 to their highest level since the UN began recording this data in 2006. This was the case even before 7 October 2023. The UN has recorded more than 700 settler attacks between 7 October and 3 April, with Israeli occupation soldiers in uniform present in nearly half of the attacks.

Repeated settler attacks, often at night, have caused fear and mental health harm. Children and their parents said children have had nightmares and difficulty concentrating. The attacks destroyed schools in two of the five communities. Most children were unable to go to school for a month or longer after being displaced.

Forcible transfer or deportation and the extensive destruction and appropriation of property in occupied territory are war crimes. While “Israeli authorities’ systematic oppression of and inhumane acts against Palestinians, including war crimes, committed with the intent to maintain the domination of Jewish Israelis over Palestinians, amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution,” HRW warned.

READ: Jerusalem court orders eviction of Palestinian families in favour of settlers