Settler attacks on Palestinians tripled in 2018

  • Posted on: 16 January 2019

In 2018 RedCrow’s system recorded more than 500 incidents of settler-related “nationalist crimes” against Palestinians in the West Bank. Such incidents include vandalism, violence, and destruction of olive trees. Until mid-Dec 2018, there were 482 incidents of politically motivated crimes committed by Israeli settlers in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) compared to 140 in 2017. It’s the highest number of incidents in four years. On the other hand,  there has been a 28-percent decrease in incidents of violence carried out by Palestinians in the West Bank, with 181 incidents reported. However, seven Israelis were killed in 2018, compared to four in 2017. The practice of harassing Palestinians known as “price tag” aims at exacting a price from Palestinians for the removal of structures in settlement outposts by the Israeli authorities or as revenge against Palestinian attacks on Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

Settler violence was at its peak in 2014, but numbers declined dramatically in 2016 and 2017 from previous years. The decline has been attributed to the response of the Israeli authorities following the firebombing of a home in the West Bank village of Duma, which took the lives of three members of the Dawabshe family. A young settler was indicted on three counts of murder in that case. After the attack, the Shin Bet security service arrested several extreme right-wing settlers living in the northern West Bank who were suspected of involvement in violence and incitement to violence against Arabs. 

A series of actions taken during that time - including detention without charges, restraining orders, keeping suspects out of the West Bank and in few cases the granting of permission to interrogate using harsh methods - enabled the authorizations to crack a number of cases, which acted as a deterrent and somewhat brought down the rate of violence against Palestinians. However, over the past year, after several right-wing settlers were released, violent acts have crept up once again especially with the rise of younger groups and with more fatal attacks against the settler population in the West Bank. 

Fatal attacks against Jewish settlers in the West Bank 2018

January 9, 2018 -  An Israeli settler was killed near Havat Gilad outpost in a drive-by shooting attack on Route 60. A manhunt for the attackers ensued with roadblocks set in the area and ISF sealed off several villages around Nablus. This has called an uptick of settler violence in surrounding areas where multiple Palestinians were injured as a result of stone throwing incidents near the Yitzhar and Shiloh junctions south of Nablus and in the nearby villages of Asira al-Qibliya, Jalud and Burin. ISF captured multiple individuals who they say are the assailants involved in the killing of the Israeli settlers on Jan 18th 2018 and they killed the alleged mastermind behind the shooting in the village of Al-Yamun on 6 February 2018.

Feb 5, 2018 - An Israeli settler was killed in a stabbing attack near the settlement of Ariel. The assailant was reported to be an Israeli-Arab who lived near Tel Aviv, he was apprehended and charged one month and a half after the attack. The incident sparked a series of retaliations by settlers throughout the West Bank especially around Nablus, ten incidents were reported in which settlers injured Palestinians in different locations south of Nablus.

Sep 16, 2018 - A prominent right-wing settler was killed in a stabbing attack outside a shopping mall near the Israeli settlement of Efrat, at the Gush Etzion Junction south of Jerusalem. The assailant was shot and injured during the incident who was later identified as a 17-year-old Palestinian teenager from the village of Yatta near Hebron.

Oct 7, 2018 - Palestinian gunman opened fire in the Barkan Industrial Park which is adjacent to the Israeli settlement of Barkan, killing two Israeli settlers who worked in a factory there. The Palestinian gunman was identified as an employee who worked there prior to the attack. The gunman was later killed on 13 December 2018 after an armed clash with a special ISF force called Yamam in the Askar refugee camp in Nablus. A few days after the shooting attack at Barkan, a Palestinian woman was killed near Nablus by stones thrown by Israeli settlers at the car in which she was traveling.

Dec. 9, 2018 - Seven Israeli settlers including a pregnant woman were wounded in a drive-by shooting near the Israeli settlement of Ofra northeast of Ramallah. This incident triggered a massive manhunt in search of the gunmen in nearby villages and in Ramallah. The gunman was identified as a Palestinian from Kobar who worked as a taxi driver in Ramallah. The Palestinian gunman was later killed on Dec 12, 2018 by ISF in Surda North of Ramallah during an arrest operation. On Dec 13, 2018 one day after the Ofra attacker was killed, a Palestinian gunman opened fire at the bus stop near Givat Assaf, killing two soldiers and injuring two Israeli settlers.

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Nablus governorate continues to be the region most affected by settler violence, accounting for 40 percent of incidents in 2018, the majority in areas surrounding the settlement of Yitzhar and its adjacent outposts. Nablus is followed by Hebron and Ramallah governorates with 31 percent of incidents, respectively. One of the hotspots in Ramallah governorate is the settlement outpost of Adei Ad, identified as the source of at least eight attacks primarily affecting farmers from Turmusayya village.

The series of deadly shootings against Israeli settlers in Dec 2018 in the West Bank caused a surge of settler violence. Hundreds of settlers blocked roads across the West Bank, harassing Palestinian drivers and damaging their vehicles. Settler attacks took place in 28 locations across the West Bank where hundreds of settlers hurled rocks at cars, vandalized houses, and uprooted trees. Moreover, ISF increased security measures and conducted raids all over the West Bank and frequently invading Ramallah.

According to human rights organizations, some weaknesses can be seen in the way Israeli authorities treat acts of Jewish terror and violence; in some matter, suspects are fastly released from detention without further legal action taken. Israeli settlers are also emboldened by support from senior government officials in the Israeli Parliament.

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