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Occupation magazine - Settlements
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Two tiny Palestinian villages, supported by activists, hold on against brutal murderous settlers
The village of Wadi Tiran was given a 24 hour warning, “leave or we kill everyone”.
Wadi Tiran is a small herding community in the South Hebron Hills, occupied West Bank. On the night of 11 Novemeber, seven settlers from the illegal settler outpost of Havat Yehuda, located just above the village, arrived in Wadi Tiran, telling villages: “You have 24 hours to leave, or we will kill everyone”.
This has become the standard threat issued to herding communities across the Occupied West Bank. Fifteen of these communities have already been wiped off the map, their inhabitants succumbing to the violence and threats and fleeing in fear for the lives of their families and children.
Near Wadi Tiran there used to be the larger village of Zanuta, whose 150 residents fled their homes on 31 November under similar, persistent and violent Israeli settler threats and attacks. Though smaller, the Wadi Tiran villagers are more persistent, determined to stay on their land despite the dire threat.
24 hours after the threat was issued, settlers entered Wadi Tiran and destroyed cars, a solar panel, a tractor, and anything they could get their hands on - but did not (yet?) kill anyone.
At nightfall on November 13, the entire village gathered in one large tent, along with a handful of international and Israeli Human Rights defenders - determined to stand together at the settlers` next arrival. The Israeli police were called, told that there is serious violence accompanied by an explicit threat of murder, but completely failed to show up. Villagers and activists are thus left to stand alone, unarmed in face of settlers who are all provided with guns from Israeli army armouries.
Update: As of the afternoon of November 16, the Wadi Tiran villagers and the activists supporting them are still alive and still in the village - though there is no telling how long this situation will last.
For more information: American Human Rights Defenders on the ground can be reached at +1 727-303-5053 and +1 727-623-641.
American citizens, alert your government to the dire threat to Palestinian communities!
American Human Rights Defenders, Jimmy Dunson and Dezeray Lyn, from Tampa, Florida, are present in Wadi Tiran – deeply concerned about the continual settler attacks. Residents, along with a handful of international and Israeli human rights defenders, are gathered in a large tent, ready to face the arrival of violent murderous settlers.
If you are a US citizen, please contact your representatives and embassies and alert them:
Embassy in Jerusalem:
Ambassador: Jack Lew
Phone: (02) 630 400
Twitter: Jack Lew@USAmbIsrael
Follow @USembassyJLM and @USPalAffairs for updates.
Tel Aviv Branch Office:
Phone: (03) 519 7575
US Palestinian Affairs in Jerusalem:
Phone: (02) 6227230
Suggested script for communication to Embassies and Representatives:
I am writing to demand rapid action be taken by this body to defend Human Rights in the West Bank. As violations of International Humanitarian Law continue to be committed against occupied Palestinians, world leaders who do not take every action to defend human life and dignity are complicit.
Daily incidents of violence committed by Israeli settlers against isolated and vulnerable Palestinian families in the South Hebron Hills are being documented and transmitted to the world. Daily transgressions of the rights of Palestinians to live their lives without being harassed, searched, arbitrarily arrested and held without charge, raided, shot at and humiliated by the army and settlers - who are being emboldened by the silence of the international community. These violations are being reported by Human Rights organizations across the globe. With the whole world watching, what side of history will you be on?
A night vigil with the Shi’b Al Butm villagers
Rada Daniell writes: Dear friends, I spent last night in Shi`ib Al Butn (lots of debate about the pronunciation, please use the one you used till now) and I just wrote this article. Estefania and I are now in Wadi Tiran with a couple more internationals. I will try to write another short piece and send it tonight.
Shi’b Al Butm is a village on the side of one of the South Hebron Hills. It is home to 18 Palestinian families with an illegal Israeli settlement close by, and a settler outpost sprouted by the main settlement even closer, very near the houses at the top end of the village.
When we arrived last night, the yellowish shine of the settlement lights looked too near for comfort. The white lights of the the Palestinian town of Yatta were far more distant. A modern settler road stretches along the other side of the village, cutting through the rolling hills and cutting Shi’b Al Butm off from Yatta.
Our host and his family were sitting around a massive burning log of an olive tree trunk, with tea and coffee repeatedly making the rounds. When the settlers` drone went up in the night sky, we knew that they were keeping an eye on us and reminding us of their presence.
The host and his sons told us that they would be staying awake in shifts through the night and we made a rota for us internationals to keep them company. A Los Angeles Times journalist, spending the night in the village, also joined the vigil.
During my night shift, all noises were a cause for alert. Our host and his son again and again getting up, listening hard and shining a torch to make sure that there are no unwanted visitors. Then the dogs would start barking and out host’s son would venture in the dark to see what excited them.
Luckily the night was quiet, but with several men of the house hardly sleeping a wink. The idea was that they would all catch up on their sleep after the morning prayer.
An Israeli woman activist who spends lots of time in the area, staying in different villages, told me that the setters always come from the outpost just above the village. Last time, a few days ago, they came and told the entire village population to leave or they would kill them. But the villagers were not planning to leave, nor were they going to be caught asleep.
The Israeli activist said that that was the third in the wave of attacks, since the start of the war on Gaza, with the previous ones ending in the entire contents of one home bring wrecked, flour spilled all over, flower pots smashed and a duck and chicken killed. She quoted the cynical remark of a villager: “Now that Palestinian lives don’t matter anymore, can someone at least try to protect the lives of animals?”
Kirsty: We had an excellent experience yesterday with Angelo, Jimmy`s US friend. He took the updated press release and action alert and ran with it in the US, mobilizing friends and community to write to the proper political targets.
Could you put the media team in contact with you support group in the UK so that when the press release and action alerts start coming, there will be somebody in the UK who can run with it?
France calls West Bank Israeli settler violence `policy of terror` By REUTERS, November 16, 2023
France on Thursday condemned violence by Israeli settlers in the West Bank, calling it a `policy of terror` aimed at displacing Palestinians and urging Israeli authorities to protect Palestinians from the violence.
Speaking to reporters, foreign ministry spokesperson Anne-Claire Legendre also said that about half the 100 tonnes of aid France had sent to Gaza had entered the enclave. She added it was not up to Israel to decide the future governance of Gaza, which she said should be part of a future Palestinian state.
I hope I will see more white roses bloom
By Dezeray Lyn, from Tampa, Florida – now in the South Hebron Hills on the West Bank
When I came to Palestine, I brought with me a compass. And when I open it, covering up what would point me north to find my way is white rose petals.
The White Rose Society was a group of people in the center of Nazi Germany who maintained their humanity amid the inhumanity around them and resisted the Holocaust.
Yesterday a group of little Palestinian children took me to a playground. We played together, prayed together, and they gave me more white rose petals.
Last night I slept in a small Palestinian community. Three days ago they were given 24 hours by violent extremists from nearby illegal settlement outposts to leave their village or all be killed. As I write this, they are still alive and still in their homes, but I don’t know how much longer this will be the case.
In the tent I stayed in, to document and intervene, there were internationals and Israelis. The Israelis I was with have chosen to oppose another shoah, another nakba. I believe them to be some of the righteous among the nations in this generation, and I am grateful to be beside them. They, from below in the valley, rather than the settlers on the hilltops, are a light unto the nations, holding onto a culture of solidarity against the odds.
Last night Wadi Tiran, where I rested my head, was not wiped off the map, but there have already been whole communities that have disappeared completely because of similar threats. And the IDF fighter jets I heard overhead every hour, reminded me that even as I try to stop ethnic cleansing, I am failing. I paid my taxes. And those U.S. tax dollars are murdering thousands of children just like the ones who gave me white rose petals.
As somebody who is inspired by all the Abrahamic faith traditions, I know that the survival, peace, freedom, and right to return of one people or faith does not have to mean the denial of the survival, peace, freedom, and right to return of other people or faith.
The Islamic mystic poet Jelaluddin Rumi says, “Wherever you go may you be the soul of that place.” One meaning of Al Aqsa, the Mosque in the heart of Jerusalem’s old city, is the soul. The soul of this place is in danger. And with it, the soul of humanity.
I hope I will see more white roses bloom
Facing violence and harassment, hundreds of Palestinians flee West Bank villages
A focus on the Gaza war and blurred lines between the military and settler activists have led to increased aggression against Palestinians and depopulation of several villages
By Jeremy Sharon, Times of Israel, 16 November 2023,
The savage attack by Hamas against Israel on October 7 and the atrocities the terror group committed on that day plunged Israel into war and brought about the greatest security threat to the Jewish state in half a century.
At the same time, the October 7 assault has unleashed severe backlash in the West Bank against Palestinian civilians, who have been violently attacked and harassed by extremist settlers and specially formed IDF reserve units established to provide extra security to Israeli settlements.
According to activist groups such as B’tselem and Peace Now, which oppose Israeli rule in the West Bank, as well as the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), this wave of harassment has led hundreds of Palestinians in vulnerable rural communities to abandon their homes and villages.
According to B’tselem, some 963 Palestinians have been displaced from 16 communities in the West Bank as a result of the attacks since October 7.
OCHA has recorded even higher figures for displaced Palestinians, and says 1,149 people from 15 herding communities have been displaced due to settler violence and land access restrictions.
In a recent visit to the South Hebron Hills, The Times of Israel spoke with several Palestinian residents about the attacks and visited one of the now-forsaken villages.
Incidents of harassment abound. On Sunday, two masked and armed IDF reservists arrived at the village of A-Tuwani in the southern Hebron Hills in a vehicle without license plates, and attempted to remove a Palestinian flag from the premises of a school.
After video footage of the incident was made public on social media, the two reservists were expelled from the IDF.
Numerous other reported incidents have taken place this week alone, including the vandalism of farming vehicles in the village of Wadi Tiran and the destruction of a wind turbine in Wadi Jheish.
As many as seven Palestinians have been killed by extremist settlers, although the circumstances of some of those incidents are not clear and an exact determination as to whether these individuals were killed by gunfire from settlers or Israeli security forces has not been possible.
According to the Yesh Din organization, another group opposing Israeli control of the West Bank, there have been more than 185 settler attacks against Palestinians in over 84 towns and villages around the territory since October 7.
One such incident took place in the Palestinian village of Susya in the South Hebron Hills on October 28.
Speaking to The Times of Israel in Susya, Ahmad Jabra Nawaja, a shepherd and resident of the village, related how he was beaten by armed, masked men in IDF uniforms who threatened to kill him if he did not leave his land.
Nawaja said he was sleeping in an agricultural wagon on his property with his wife and two daughters because they were worried about settler violence and the possibility their homes might be set ablaze with them inside.
“We were woken up by loud shouts, and saw guns aimed at us,” Nawaja told The Times of Israel through a translator.
He said the men were armed with M-16 assault rifles and that he believed them to be settlers dressed in IDF uniforms.
These men called IDF reserve soldiers to the scene, who checked Nawaja’s ID and then told the first group of men to leave.
But later that night, at approximately 4 a.m., the men who Nawaja believes were settlers from a newly established reserve regional defense battalion came back, dragged him out of the wagon, kicked and beat him, and threatened that they would kill him if he did not raze all the structures on his property and leave the site.
“When he put the gun to my neck I was terrified. I thought he was going to shoot me, I thought it was over. My heart was beating like crazy,” Nawaja said.
He said his daughter Sara threw up and his other daughter, Siwar, got a nosebleed due to their stress and fear during the incident.
Nawaja said that such violent and threatening attacks were a new development since October 7 and that he was concerned about further such incidents.
“We have nowhere else to go. We don’t have any alternative,” he said.
A lawyer for Susya’s residents filed a complaint to the police via an online complaint system, but has yet to hear from the police.
The Police Spokesperson’s Division did not respond to requests for comment.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Division said it was unaware of this incident and could not comment.
In an earlier incident on October 16, three water cisterns used by Susya’s residents as a means of storing water were deliberately damaged by a man, believed to be a resident of a nearby illegal outpost, operating a tractor, accompanied by armed men in IDF uniforms, some of whom masked their faces with black balaclavas.
According to Nasser Nawaja, another Susya resident, the cisterns have been badly damaged and are currently unusable due to the amount of rubble the tractor pushed inside them.
Dr. Quamar Mishirqi-Assad, an attorney for Susya’s residents and co-director of the Haqel: In Defense of Human Rights organization, says she called the offices of the local District Coordination Office of the Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration department during the incident to try and get the demolition halted, but to no avail.
Susya, located in Area C of the West Bank where Israel has full security and civilian control, is not connected to the main Israeli water supply system and residents are required to find other ways to source water.
The Civil Administration said in response to a query about the incident that there were no demolition orders against the cisterns, but could not comment on the actions of the men involved.
Following a request for comment, the IDF Spokespersons Unit acknowledged that there had been no legal order to destroy the cisterns.
“IDF forces that came to Susya to carry out an engineering operation in the ‘Susya’ dwelling on October 16 exceeded the boundaries of the actions that had been defined due to lack of coordination,” said the IDF.
“The claims about damage to property are known to us,” the statement continued, adding, “The incident will be investigated and lessons applied to prevent similar incidents.”
The Police Spokesperson’s Department did not respond to a request for comment.
Susya is largely located on private Palestinian land, but its residents have never received building permits for the various structures built at the site. The Defense Ministry’s Civil Administration almost never grants such permits to Palestinians in Area C, so illegal construction in the Palestinian sector is very common.
Nasser Nawaja, a Susya resident and activist for the Palestinian village, stands next to one of three water cisterns deliberately damaged by IDF personnel during an incident on October 16, 2023. (Jeremy Sharon)
Susya, home to some 35 families comprising around 350 residents, has a troubled history along with numerous other Palestinian communities in the region.
Several iterations of Susya have been demolished by enforcement personnel of the Civil Administration since 1985, and demolition orders have been in place against the current structures in the village since at least 2015, orders which were upheld by the High Court of Justice.
The demolitions have not been carried out, however, due to strong international pressure against Israel, including from the EU and the US.
Pro-settlement organizations such as Regavim describe the residents of Susya as “squatters” and have argued that historically there were never permanent Palestinian settlements in the region.
Regavim claims that the establishment of Palestinian villages in the South Hebron Hills is part of a broader plan adopted by the Palestinian Authority to take control of Area C, which is some 60 percent of the West Bank. Squads on duty
One of the principal concerns pointed to by organizations such as B’tselem, Peace Now, and others regarding violence against Palestinians since October 7 is the IDF’s formation of six volunteer regional defensive battalions to help protect West Bank settlements.
Following the Hamas massacres in southern Israel, numerous members of the civilian security squads that provide protection for the settlements were called up by the army for operations in Gaza or on the northern border with Lebanon.
To compensate for this loss of security manpower, new reserve regional defensive battalions were created by the IDF comprising eligible volunteers from the settlements themselves as well as men from inside sovereign Israel who have previously undergone IDF training.
Activists have said that this situation has blurred the line between settlers and the military, and enabled extremist settlers to use their military status to harass and attack Palestinians.
“There are violent settlers who, two or three months ago, were beating, attacking and harassing Palestinian communities in order to push them off their land. Now they’re recruited into the IDF, they’re in uniform with guns, and have full authority as soldiers, and they’re doing the same thing,” says Yehuda Shaul, co-director of the dovish think tank Ofek.
“That’s how we get to the reality today, where Palestinians have basically no buffer between them and violent settlers, and the settlers are operating with more impunity than usual.”
Ahmad Nawaja said specifically that he believed it was personnel from the newly formed regional defensive battalion in the Judea district of the West Bank, which covers the South Hebron Hills region, who attacked him on the night of October 28.
The individuals responsible for Sunday’s unlawful incursion into A-Tuwani, just up the road from Susya, were also from the Judea battalion.
The South Hebron Hills has long been a hotbed of extremist settler activity, and local Palestinian herding communities have long been subject to harassment.
Salah Abu Awad, 28, used to live in the tiny hamlet of Widady not far from Susya. But following a series of violent attacks and harassment, apparently by local settlers, the 20 residents of Widady decided to abandon the village on July 16 this year.
Abu Awad said he took his flock to nearby Shima, but after suffering harassment there moved on to another nearby hamlet, Radhem.
According to B’tselem, extremist settlers vandalized property at Radhem and harassed its 20 residents on five occasions from October 9 to October 19, resulting in the two families who together were the entire population of the village abandoning the site by October 21.
“We had been in Widady for generations… I have no words about how I feel. It’s not a very great feeling to [keep] having to move,” said Abu Awad stoically. He is now living in Sheheb Tariq, another small hamlet in the area.
Zanutah is another such village that has been depopulated since October 7. The village was home to some 27 families and had a population of around 250 people, but like Radhem, Susya, and others, it faced continued attacks and harassment by extremist settlers.
Between October 12 and 27, B’tselem says several incidents of assault and destruction of property, including of solar panels and water tanks critical for the village’s survival, were carried out against its residents, including one incident in which a stun grenade was allegedly thrown at residents.
Threats of violence against the residents if they did not leave the village were also allegedly made in this period, similar to the threats issued to Ahmad Nawaja in Susya.
The community in Zanutah ultimately decided to leave the village as a result, and packed up and removed all the property they could take with them by October 28.
The Times of Israel visited the depopulated village and saw the entire site abandoned. The corrugated metal sheets used to roof buildings in such villages due to the lack of building permits had been removed by the former residents, along with everything else that could be taken.
A school in Zanutah built by the European Union’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid department had been vandalized, with trash and debris strewn across its small campus.
A quadcopter drone buzzed overhead during the visit and descended to just a few meters above this reporter’s head as he was touring the site.
Activists say that drones are increasingly used to harass Palestinians and their herds in the area, although it was impossible to determine who was operating this particular device.
“The war in Gaza has created a new reality where the security system in the West Bank increasingly relies on settlers within the framework of operational activities, becoming more dependent on them,” Peace Now said in a report issued on November 10.
“Ideological and violent settlers leverage the war to coerce the military for their own goals of expulsion and harm to Palestinians, even interfering with IDF activities,” in order to “strengthen their hold over Area C.”
Andrea De Domenico, head of the OCHA Occupied Palestinian Territories office, said in response that the increase in violence against Palestinians, and limits on their freedom of movement, was “more than concerning.”
Said Domenico, “It results in displacement of families and whole communities, and generates humanitarian needs. The humanitarian community is supporting them, but our assistance would be unnecessary if their fundamental rights were respected. Settlements are illegal, Palestinians have to be protected and those violating human rights must be held to account.”
The office of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and the office of Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who also serves as an additional minister in the Defense Ministry with responsibility for civilian affairs in the West Bank, did not respond to requests for comment.
ttps://docs.google.com/document/d/16Fvketsa9CoLqYvOjTFvDzcqEilUZz4JwjPB4J0OiTs/edit Here is the revised action alert:
ttps://docs.google.com/document/d/1BVSukTIph75BJIxGCcNj-f7OLX9OmwaSRsQMdf7qZm0/edit?usp=sharing Here is the revised press release:
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