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Untrammeled settler violence spreads through Nablus region

International Solidarity Movement

16 April 2010

Israeli settlers have strengthened their campaign of colonization and violence in the Nablus region of the West Bank in recent weeks. A mosque was vandalized and three cars torched in a Israeli settler attack on Huwara village on April 14. In the neighboring village of Burin, attacks on Palestinian civilians and homes continue as six mobile homes have been established on Burin’s land, constituting a new settler outpost.

On Thursday, April 15, international solidarity activists visited Huwara, a village of 6,500 inhabitants, to express solidarity with the village after the mosque had been defaced by settlers early Wednesday morning. Huwara mayor, Samer Odeh, reported that five to six settlers descended on the village in the early morning hours and spray-painted graffiti on the eight-year-old mosque. They also set fire to three cars belonging to inhabitants of the northern region of the village that lies a short distance from Yitzhar settlement. The Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) arrived and immediately closed off the entire area surrounding the mosque. They took pictures and then set to work painting over the graffiti – ostensibly to clean it up, but much more likely to cover up the act. The paint that was used was the wrong color and villagers came to clean the mosque as soon as the Army departed. Some of the graffiti remains and we were able to photograph it.

Another mosque in the village was defaced by settler colons in a similar way just two years ago. The mayor went on to note that the Israeli Army often comes into the village’s nursing school and harasses the women. The grade school, which is near the main road, also suffers such harassment – yet more examples of the extreme hubris of the Israeli Army which harasses and intimidates merely because it can.

From Huwara we traveled north to Burin to visit the head of Burin’s popular committee Bilal and his family and to hear about the incursion of the settlers from the nearby illegal settlement of Bracha into the village. Bilal reported that two weeks ago approximately 20 settler colons entered the village at night, shooting and throwing stones into the windows of two homes. Shortly thereafter the Army arrived, echoing the settlers’ violence with further intimidation aimed at the people in Burin in an effort to silence their protest.

The settler colons from Bracha and Yitzhar are a constant problem and threat to the villagers of Burin – Bilal, himself, carries the scars of a beating by settler colons.

Four days ago, settler colons attempted to steal a horse belonging to a Burin farmer as he made his way down the slopes of the mountains that envelope the village, brandishing a weapon at villages as they came to rescue the frightened animal. Six months ago, settler colons set fire to the house that Bilal is building at the summit of a nearby hill. Since that incident, Bilal has set the house in concrete so as to avoid another arson attack, but that has not stopped the settler colons from spray-painting the home. Looking out over the surrounding hills one can see Bracha very clearly, where 20 new houses have recently been built, despite the alleged 10 month freeze on construction implemented by the Israeli government last year. Six new temporary mobile homes have been established on the peak adjacent to Bilal’s new home five weeks previously, constituting the establishment of a new outpost. Prior to this, settlers had set up tents on the hill, but have since upgraded the constructions to include walls and roves, as well as electricity and water supply.

The settlements of Yitzhar and Bracha, built on the lands of Huwara, Burin and the neighboring villages of Urif, Einabus, Iraq Burin, Madama and Asira al-Qabliya were originally established as Israeli military bases in the early 1980s. Despite their “de-militarization” and alleged transformation to civilian communities, their positions in the region retain strategic value to the Israeli military and significantly aid the continuing annexation of Palestinian land. Residents of the religious settlements have increased their campaign of violent colonization in the past two years, wrecking havoc on the indigenous Palestinian communities and aided by the conspiratorial forces of the Israeli military. Route 60, the main highway running north to south through the West Bank passes directly through Huwara village, constituting the constant threat of settler and military harassment. Burin, situated in a valley between the two settlements bears the brunt of their territorial zeal. Despite the settlements’ violation of international law, Yitzhar was earmarked for increased funding in Israel’s 2009 national priority map.