Settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank is rising

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NEW YORK – Attacks on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank are surging, with at least 115 killed, more than 2,000 injured and nearly 1,000 others forcibly displaced from their homes because of violence and intimidation by Israeli forces and settlers since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct 7, according to the United Nations.

Among the dead are 33 children, according to an update Sunday from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which has been tracking the conflicts.

Confrontations in the West Bank have been a long-standing issue, but the violence has intensified over the past three weeks, more than doubling to seven incidents a day, on average, compared with three incidents a day since the start of 2023, according to the UN.

“We’ve observed more incidents where armed settlers have threatened Palestinians,” Ms Andrea De Domenico, head of the UN humanitarian affairs office, told The New York Times. “In several areas, Palestinians have been ordered to leave under the threat of firearms.”

An ever-growing number of Israeli communities have taken root in the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967.

The settlements cut into land Palestinians have title to and also undermine the territory needed for any two-state solution, fanning tensions in the region. They also draw many residents who consider the West Bank to be Jewish by birthright.

In the clashes since Oct 7, almost half have involved “Israeli forces accompanying or actively supporting Israeli settlers while carrying out the attacks,” according to the UN report.

The Israeli military declined to comment.

In the days after the Oct 7 attacks, Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir announced that his ministry was purchasing 10,000 rifles to arm civilians, specifying among the intended recipients those in West Bank settlements.

Much of the violence in the territory has been directed at herders and Bedouin communities.

The UN said those Palestinians have faced physical violence and intimidation and been denied access to their lands, a particular hardship given that many are farmers.

The Palestinian hamlet of Khirbet al-Ratheem, in the hills of Hebron, is now emptied of its population of about 50 people. Israeli settlers from a nearby outpost began to close roads leading to the hamlet on Oct 14, according to Palestinians who lived there.

On the night of Oct 14, “they returned to attack us, pointing their guns at us while forcing us all into one room,” said Mr Amir Abdullah Hamdan al-Maharak, a 50-year-old farmer who has seven children.

Mr Al-Maharak said the settlers dragged and shoved his elderly father around the family’s home, and then used their knives to cut through the family’s water barrels and slash the pipes for their propane canisters.

Fearing for their lives, he and his family decided to take their sheep and flee. NYTIMES

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