Israeli settlers ramp up attacks in West Bank under cover of Gaza war

Ahram Online , Tuesday 31 Oct 2023

Israeli settlers and soldiers have killed more than 200 Palestinians in the West Bank in 2023, making it the deadliest year for the occupied territory in more than two decades.

A bulldozer clears the rubble at the site of the demolished family home of Saleh al-Arouri, in the W
A bulldozer clears the rubble at the site of the demolished family home of Saleh al-Arouri, in the West Bank village of Arura, northwest of Ramallah, Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2023. AP


The majority (124) have been killed since 7 October, under the cover of Israel’s war on Gaza.

Settlers, protected by the police and army, have been emboldened to ramp up their attacks, driving hundreds of Palestinians from their homes with impunity.

Palestinians in the West Bank fear that the current violence could presage a wider campaign of expulsion, according to The Washington Post.

The US newspaper quoted Tariq Mustafa, who fled his home in the Bedouin community of Wadi Siq after threats from armed settlers, as saying “the war in Gaza gave the settlers the green light,” adding “before, they would yell at us to go to Ramallah. Now they are telling us to go all the way to Jordan.

According to the Post’s reporting, settlers attacked Palestinians in the West Bank on 100 different occasions and in at least 62 locations from 7-22 October — with that figure undoubtedly higher a week later.

“The Israeli government is supportive of these attacks and does nothing to stop this violence,” noted a recent statement from 30 Israeli human rights groups and civil society organizations cited by the Post.

Their reporting also pointed to the active participation of the government, from ministers to the military, in settler violence.

"Netanyahu’s far-right government includes a number of extremist politicians who specifically champion the expansion of settlements in the West Bank and the annexation of some of its land — moves that are viewed broadly by the international community as illegal and an impediment to the creation of a viable Palestinian state."

These include figures such as Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir. Earlier this year, Smotrich infamously called for the flattening of an entire Palestinian town (Hawara) in the West Bank. Ben Gvir, in recent weeks, has gone about various Israeli towns and West Bank settlements distributing guns to settlers.

The half a million settlers who occupy the West Bank have a clear goal, according to Haaretz journalist Amira Hass: expel more Palestinians from their land and homes.

“Fear fills the air as people remember a 2002 Israeli invasion that destroyed much of the West Bank’s infrastructure and left many people dead,” wrote Ramallah-based journalist Dalia Hatuqa, according to The Post.

“A repetition of that invasion is the specter in people’s minds as they clear out grocery store shelves, anticipating another stretch of long days being trapped inside due to an army curfew which may or may not come.”

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