Israeli settlers attack Palestinian families in Huwara

Feb 27, 2023
Israeli soldiers speak with Israeli settlers in the Palestinian town of Huwara near Nablus in the occupied West Bank on February 27, 2023. (Photo credit: Ronaldo Schemidt / AFP)

Ramallah, February 27, 2023—A large group of Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian families and their property in the northern occupied West Bank yesterday.

Around 400 Israeli settlers entered the Palestinian town of Huwara, south of Nablus in the northern occupied West Bank, on the evening of February 26, setting fire to at least 30 Palestinian homes and cars, according to Al Jazeera. One Palestinian man was shot and killed by either an Israeli settler or soldier, and nearly 100 Palestinians suffered injuries from tear gas inhalation.  

“Palestinian children live in a hyper-militarized context where Israeli civilians illegally settled in occupied territory are armed by the Israeli government as a matter of official policy,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, accountability program director at DCIP. “Israeli soldiers, police, and private security staff not only protect Israeli settler populations, but they also aid, abet, and perpetrate violence against Palestinians, including children.”

On October 3, 2022, around 100 Israeli settlers attacked Ayham Q.’s family home in Huwara, breaking every window in the house, according to documentation collected by DCIP. Israeli settlers also smashed the windows of two cars next to their home. After the attacks, Ayham’s family added shutters and additional protection to their windows. His mother, Lina, transferred his 12-year-old sister to the school she works at so she would not have to go home alone after school.

“We still live in a state of anxiety and tension,” Ayham told DCIP after the October attack.

During the Israeli settler attacks on February 26, Ayham’s family fled their home to stay with his maternal grandparents. Israeli settlers attacked his grandparents’ home, during which Ayhams’ grandfather and uncles sustained injuries from rubber-coated metal bullets, likely fired by Israeli forces.

Lina, Ayham’s mother, recalls that their home has been attacked by Israeli settlers at least six times in the 12 years they have lived there.

The Palestinian town of Huwara, south of Nablus, is about 400 meters (1312 feet) south of the illegal Israeli settlement Yitzhar, widely known as a hotbed of Israeli settler violence against Palestinians. The illegal settlement was founded in 1983 as a military outpost that soon turned into a civilian settlement. Nearby Palestinian villages previously used the land for agricultural purposes, and Palestinian villagers are frequently targeted with violence by Yitzhar settlers. The Od Yosef Chai yeshiva is based in Yitzhar and is known for encouraging its students to perpetrate violence against Palestinians. The yeshiva was previously located in Nablus until it moved to Yitzhar in 2000 during the Second Intifada.

The Palestinian town of Huwara is surrounded by Israeli settlements on hilltops, represented by the color blue in this map from Israeli human rights organization Btselem.

Israel has an obligation as the “Occupying Power” under international humanitarian law to protect the Palestinian population living under Israeli military occupation. However, DCIP documentation shows that Israeli forces frequently fail to intervene to stop or prevent Israeli settler attacks. 

Settler attacks usually entail groups of Israeli men throwing stones at Palestinians, often including children, or vandalizing property, such as homes, cars, churches, mosques and schools. Beatings and shootings, resulting in injuries and occasionally fatalities, are also regular occurrences, according to documentation collected by DCIP. 

While they are civilians, Israeli settlers are issued firearms by the Israeli government and many subscribe to ultra-nationalistic beliefs that manifest in extreme violence towards Palestinians, including children. Israeli settlers who attack Palestinians are motivated by the drive to dispossess Palestinians of their land, according to Israeli human rights group Yesh Din.

Impunity is rampant for Israeli settlers who attack Palestinians. According to Israeli human rights group Yesh Din, 91 percent of investigations into ideological crimes against Palestinians are closed with no indictments filed. 

Since Israeli forces occupied the West Bank in 1967, Israeli authorities have established more than 200 Jewish-only settlements that house around 700,000 Israeli citizens, according to the Times of Israel

Israel’s Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank amount to a war crime as transferring civilians into the Occupied Palestinian Territory violates international humanitarian law and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. 

Despite living in the same territory, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank are subject to Israeli military law, while Israeli settlers living illegally in permanent, Jewish-only communities built on Palestinian land are subject to the Israeli civilian legal system.

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