Israel troops ‘watched, joined settler attacks’ on Palestinians

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The B’Salem rights group says that in most cases the Israeli military is not intervening to stop the attacks, and is often actively involved.

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An Israeli rights group has said it has documented 451 incidents of settler violence on Palestinians since the beginning of 2020, in which Israeli forces have not intervened to stop the attacks in most cases.

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In a report published on Sunday, B’Salem said that in 66 percent of incidents when settlers in the occupied West Bank attacked Palestinians, Israeli forces did not go to the scene.

In 170 cases where troops arrived, soldiers either chose not to intervene to defend the Palestinians or actively joined the attack.

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According to B’Tselem, in only 13 cases, Israeli forces took action to “stop the violence of the population”.

“The settler attacks against Palestinians are a tactic employed by the Israeli apartheid regime, which seeks to advance and complete the abuse of greater Palestinian land,” the rights group said in its report. “When violence is permitted and aided by the Israeli authorities and under its auspices, it is state violence. The settlers are not defying the state; they are doing its bidding.”

Israel, which has occupied the West Bank since 1967, rejects claims that its treatment of Palestinians equates to apartheid.

There was no immediate comment by Israel’s security forces on B’Tselem’s findings.

Recent months have seen a sharp increase in violence by settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank, including by farmers cutting down their olive groves.

“It is clear that there has been an increase in attacks,” Ghassan Douglass, who oversees settler violence in the northern West Bank, told Al Jazeera last month, describing the violence as “planned and not spontaneous”.

Last week, a group of settlers vandalized several cars in a town near Ramallah, and in September, dozens of settlers attacked a Bedouin village in the southern West Bank, injuring several, including a Palestinian child.

B’Tselem spokesman Dror Sadot said the group did not contact security forces for comment on the report because “we understand they do nothing about our allegations”.

The group highlighted five examples in different parts of the West Bank in which violent settlers occupied more than 2,800 hectares (6,919 acres) of land.

It cited the case of Maon Farm, which was illegally erected in the southern West Bank, but which with a sub-outpost now controls about 264 hectares (652 acres), including access by Palestinian residents of the area. Roads and pastures are included.

Jumma Ribi, a 48-year-old Shepherd from the Palestinian community of al-Tuwani, told B’Salem that the settlers’ attacks were driving them away from the agriculture that supported their families.

He said that in 2018 the settlers attacked him severely. “He broke my leg, and I had to spend two weeks in the hospital and continue treatment at home,” B’Salem quoted him as saying.

“I had to sell most of my sheep to cover the cost of the treatment.”

Farmer Juhdi Hassan told Al Jazeera he was facing trouble this season due to mass settler attacks, movement restrictions and poor rains.

“Normally, I produce about 20 large plastic containers of olive oil, but this year I will only produce six to seven containers,” said the 57-year-old. “I think next year’s crop will also be bad because of the settlers and the continued destruction of our trees.”

Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have moved into West Bank settlements that are considered illegal under international law.

Some settlement outposts, including Maon Farm, are also illegal under Israeli law. However, the government has been slow or reluctant to evacuate them.

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