The rise in recent attacks involving cooperation between settlers and IDF soldiers seems to be a prelude to Israel’s efforts to formally annex the entire West Bank.
TEL AVIV — Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem has provided evidence showing Israeli soldiers joining settlers in a series of attacks targeting the Palestinian village of ‘Urif, near Nablus in the occupied West Bank. The village, home to around 3,600 Palestinians, has been a target of extremist settlers for years given its close proximity to the illegal settlement of Yitzhar, notorious even among the Israeli security establishment for its repeated attacks on Palestinians and arson of nearby Palestinian property. Such attacks have historically taken place on farmland bordering the village, as well as near the village’s water tower.
Yet, while the Israeli government has long dismissed Yitzhar attacks on Palestinians as the work of a handful of settler youth “activists,” B’Tselem has now revealed that many of these attacks are conducted along with the active participation of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers, resulting in IDF-settler “joint assaults” on Palestinian civilians that rob Palestinians of “not only their land but also their livelihood.”
B’Tselem detailed several different attacks that have taken place in recent months, in which settlers have exacted damage on Palestinian property, many with direct assistance from IDF soldiers. The first two that involved IDF-settler cooperation took place in March and early June.
In both cases, the incidents involved settlers launching attacks while they were being guarded and accompanied by IDF soldiers, some of whom then joined in the attacks. In the March incident, the accompanying soldiers killed one Palestinian and injured a 14-year-old boy, while another ‘Urif resident was injured in the separate incident that took place in early June.
However, since reporting on those attacks a few months ago, the human rights group has documented four more such attacks on the village of ‘Urif, two of which directly involved IDF soldiers who not only enabled settler violence but actively participated. The two incidents involving settler-IDF cooperation took place within a span of two days, on July 4 and July 6 of this year.
Watch | Israeli settlers and soldiers attack ‘Urif, south of Nablus, 6 July 2018
The first incident saw six settlers accompanied by a group of soldiers erect a wooden shed on village property. When villagers attempted to remove the settlers from the area, soldiers responded by shooting rubber bullets and throwing tear gas canisters. Since the shed was placed, settlers have appeared at the site on an almost daily basis, sparking fears among locals that it will be used to annex that portion of the village’s property with the IDF’s support.
The second incident, occurring just two days later, saw 40 settlers from the Yitzhar settlement, along with eight to 10 IDF soldiers, appear on ‘Urif land — at which point the settlers, many of whom were masked and armed with metal pipes, began to torch village orchards and cut down trees. Fifteen more IDF soldiers then arrived on the scene. Subsequently, when the villagers began to throw stones to stop the destruction of their property, IDF soldiers threw tear gas canisters and fired rubber bullets. One of the residents was struck in the head and subsequently hospitalized, while soldiers also detained a photojournalist who lives in the village for attempting to document the incident. A total of 159 trees — including olives, figs and pomegranates — were destroyed by the settlers.
B’Tselem had previously reported on 10 separate instances throughout the West Bank in which settlers destroyed more than 2,000 fruit trees and burned down farm fields belonging to Palestinians between this May and July.
Nibbling first, then swallowing whole
According to B’Tselem, these attacks and others are “intended to usurp ever-increasing areas of Palestinian land and to annex the land de facto to the settlements” in order “to dispossess as many Palestinians as possible, driving them to leave their land ‘voluntarily’ so that it can be seized.” The group added that “the conduct of the Israeli security forces — providing guarding services for the assailants and actively participating in attacks — repeatedly sends Palestinians a message of complete disregard for their lives, safety and property,” while also perpetuating this “violent routine” of joint IDF-settler attacks on Palestinian territory.
As the group has noted in the past, such settler violence – especially when directly supported by the Israeli military – erects “invisible walls” that pave the way for the annexation of Palestinian land. Indeed, such attacks often force Palestinians to abandon or neglect properties that have been targeted by settlers, given that crossing into such areas will likely expose them to violence and place their lives at risk. This abandoned land is then taken over by Israel, whence it then becomes “state land” that is then often given to the very settlements responsible for the initial attacks.
The rise in recent attacks involving cooperation between settlers and IDF soldiers seems to be a prelude to Israel’s efforts to formally annex the entire West Bank. As MintPress recently reported, the UN has warned that Israel’s government is preparing to take over the occupied territory while a proposed bill in the Israeli Knesset would allow Israeli Jewish citizens to purchase land in an area accounting for around 60 percent of the occupied territory, paving the way for its eventual incorporation into Israeli territory.
Top Photo | Israeli soldiers stand next to cars set on fire by Jewish settlers in the Palestinian city of O’urif in Occupied Palestine. July 13, 2018. Majdi Mohammed | AP
Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.