9 September 2009
On Wednesday 9 September 2009 the villages of Urif and Asira al Qibliya south of Nablus, came under attack from settlers from the nearby illegal Yitzhar settlement. At approximately 2pm, 10 settler youth, half of them masked and armed with machete knives, stones and slingshots attempted to attack the village of Urif and Asira al Qibliya.
The settlers attempted to first attack the village of Urif, however the Israeli army did arrive and prevented the armed youth proceeding any further. Following this the settler youth then proceeded to the village of Asira al Qibliya.
The youth destroyed a hillside tent put up by the army two months ago on the outskirts of Asira between the illegal settlement and the Palestinian village. The Israeli army then arrived with 3 jeeps, carrying 9 soldiers. The soldiers began to shout at Palestinians to return to their homes and made no attempt to push the settlers back who continued to roam a few metres from Palestinian homes. As Palestinian youth gathered at the edges of the village to defend against any attacks by the soldiers or settlers the army fired four bursts of live ammunition and tear gas on the unarmed crowd. A ricocheting bullet hit one Palestinian boy, 8 year old Machlouf Abrahim, in the arm. A number of people were also effected by two rounds of tear gas that had were fired at their homes.
After approximately one hour the army regrouped and , joined by one settlement security jeep drove through the village, firing tear gas on dozens of young boys, some of whom were throwing stones. They established a checkpoint on the main entry road and remained on the outskirts of Asira until nightfall.
Asira al Qibliya and the surrounding villages have suffered repeated attacks from the illegal settlements Yitzhar and Bracha that surround the Palestinian villages. One year ago settlers from the illegal settlement of Yitzhar rampaged through Asira al Qibliya shooting a number of residents and causing damage to property. The incident was described by the then Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak as a ‘pogram’ and condemned at the time but despite footage of the incident the Israeli Government has not brought forward charges against any settlers. In a later incident the settlers shot dead a 14 year old boy from the village.
Settlers have also been responsible for the continual burning of land of the local Palestinian villages with 1000’s of dunams of land planted with olive trees, vital to the local economy, destroyed. Settlers have continued to engage in what they call a ‘price tag’ campaign whereby if an illegal outpost is taken down in one part of the West Bank settlers rampage, destroy and attack Palestinians and their property in retaliation. Settlements in the occupied territories and outpost are considered illegal under international law and despite their obligation to protect the local population as an occupying force the Israeli Government continues to condone and support the violent and illegal acts of settlers in the occupied territories.