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Increased settler attacks on villages around Nablus followed by army invasions including the use of live ammunition

4 December 2009

Settler attacks have increased across the Nablus region this week, as residents of Yitzhar settlement target the villages of Burin and Asira al-Qabliya. Israeli Occupation Forces have aided and abetted settlers, terrorising the villages with the use of live ammunition, sound bombs and firing tear gas on Palestinian residents.

The homes of Ahmad Jamal and Ahmad Mohammad Saleh in Asira al-Qabliya sit a short distance from the Shalhevit Yam outpost of the illegal settlement of Yitzhar, notorious for the violent ideologies of its residents. At 8:30am this morning, December 4, approximately 50 settlers stormed the eastern edge of the village, swarming around the homes of the Jamal and Saleh families and hurling stones. Ten Israeli military jeeps arrived shortly thereafter, attacking the village already under siege from its violent ‘neighbours’. The jeeps entered the Asira al-Qabliya firing tear gas, sound bombs and live ammunition, the entire attack lasting 2 hours before the final jeep exited the village.

Residents speculate that the attack may have been ‘provoked’ by the presence of farmers in fields close to the settlement today. A severe and unrelenting problem for farmers unfortunate enough to own land close to Yitzhar, a task as simple as plowing or pruning becomes a test of one’s bravery and a potential risk for the entire village. For the Jamal and Saleh families, the fear is constant – for the homes they have built, situated on the edge of the village and dangerously close to the latest extension of Yitzhar. Since the Shalhevit Yam outpost began construction in 2001 the Palestinian families’ homes have come under attack countless times from settlers armed with stones and guns, going as far as vandalising the exterior of the houses. Windows are broken and spray-painted Stars of David emblazoned across the walls.

The story is familiar in the nearby village of Burin. The family of Abu Ayman’s home sits alone on the hill that ascends to Yitzhar, and has come under attack almost daily this past week. Settlers frequently attack en masse, hurling stones and terrorising the family, home to over 10 children, including a new baby. The Yitzhar ‘side’ of the valley that forms Burin’s land has seen over 200 olive trees cut down by settlers in the past two months, seriously damaging the economy of Burin farmers.

The ‘phenomenon’ of settlers taking the law in to their own hands has become normality, as the populations of Palestinian villages brace themselves for another outbreak of settler violence in response to the Israeli government’s latest luke-warm ‘concession’ to the Palestinians – a 10-month partial settlement freeze. Despite cabinet moves already being made to amend the freeze (effectively nullifying it), it has sparked outrage in settler communities across the West Bank – from public demonstrations to violent attacks, not only on Palestinians but Israeli inspectors attempting to supervise the halt to construction.