RAMALLAH: Since the beginning of the olive harvest two weeks ago, there has been a significant increase in assaults by Israeli settlers on Palestinians.
These attacks come at a time when candidates for the upcoming Israeli elections are campaigning for the votes of settlers living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
“The Palestinian Authority must stand by its people and immediately stop security coordination with the Israeli occupation,” Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti told Arab News on Friday.
He added: “It is not possible to stop settlements and settlers’ attacks without confronting the occupation and settlements through resistance in all its forms.”
Palestinian sources said the Israeli army attacked olive pickers near the city of Tulkarm in the northern West Bank on Friday.
Muayyad Shaaban, head of the Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission, was also beaten and sprayed with tear gas, according to a statement from the commission, which claimed Shaaban, members of staff, and activists from the popular resistance are being subjected to an “unprecedented” Israeli campaign of incitement through social media.
Many settlers — including women and children — have participated in attacks against the Palestinians. Those settlers criticize Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz for not providing them with security in the West Bank and have called on voters not to re-elect him.
Munir Kadous, a researcher at the Israeli organization Yesh Din: Volunteers for Human Rights, described the recent attacks by settlers against Palestinian citizens as “horrific and terrifying.”
He said: “After limiting their attacks to homes and farms located on the outskirts of Palestinian towns and villages, they now attack any target they want in the center of those towns without fear, (under) the protection of the Israeli army.”
Younis Arar, director of the International Relations Unit at the Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission, said the settlers would not have dared to attack in such a way without the protection of the Israeli army.
“They attack citizens and their property in broad daylight and shoot at people without hesitation or fear, enjoying the protection of the Israeli army, which does not interfere to prevent them from carrying out their attacks against Palestinians and their property,” said Arar.
Around 700,000 settlers live in the West Bank in 130 settlements and outposts, all of which are illegal under international law because they are built on occupied land.
Palestinians unanimously agree that the danger posed by settlers to their lives and property is equal to, if not greater than, that posed by the Israeli army. They also see the illegal settlements as the greatest obstacle to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
Abdullah Odeh, 50, from Hawara in southern Nablus, where he owns a transportation company and a tourist resort, told Arab News that settlers have attacked his commercial properties on 22 occasions since the beginning of the year. But while previous attacks had been limited to vandalism, on Oct. 13 settlers from nearby Yitzhar set fire to two of his trucks and some of his property, resulting in damage that he estimates at $140,000. This was followed by another attack on his property on Friday afternoon.
Palestinian sources told Arabs News that there have been more than 100 such attacks during the last 10 days.
“I complained to the Palestinian and Israeli police and the Palestinian-Israeli military liaison, and they did nothing,” Odeh told Arab News.
He added that the settlers’ repeated attacks on his tourist resort have resulted in a significant drop in visitor numbers. This week, Odeh plans to start construction of a fence around his 10-acre resort.
Also on Friday, hundreds of Palestinians participated in the funeral of 19-year-old Salah Braiki in Jenin. The teenager was killed by the Israeli army during a raid on the city at dawn on Friday.
The mourners chanted slogans condemning ongoing Israeli aggression. At least 124 Palestinians, including several children, have been killed in the West Bank since the beginning of the year.
Braiki’s father said that his son was riding his motorcycle with friends when the army stormed the city and shot Braiki.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said it had treated 64 civilians who were injured in clashes in Nablus. Two young men had suffered eye and head injuries after being attacked in Burin, south of Nablus, it added.