8 December 2023 | International Solidarity Movement | Masafer Yatta, Occupied West Bank
In the morning of December 8th, around 50 soldiers/settlers, most of whom wore masks, invaded the Palestinian village of Khallet Al-Dabaa, in Masafer Yatta, and violently attacked 5 people. The aggressors abducted Salah, a Palestinian man, father of 4 young children. They also ransacked and seriously damaged some houses and the elementary school of the village, destroying doors, windows and furniture. The soldiers/settlers stole 6000 shekels ($1600), and various property such as power drills, jackets, flashlights, binoculars. They also tore bags of food, stepped on bread and vegetables.
The soldiers/settlers then blocked the road to a nearby village and prevented an ambulance from reaching a diabetic 84-year-old Palestinian who needed urgent medical attention.
The 84-year-old Palestinian man passed out during the confrontation, while the head of the village council, Muhammad Rabai, who had called the ambulance, was arrested by the Israeli soldiers/settlers.
It was unclear whether the aggressors, who arrived in civilian vehicles, were settlers, Israeli army soldiers, or a group composed of both.
Palestinians in Masafer Yatta have been reporting that it is currently almost impossible to distinguish between army and groups of settlers, as the latter roam the area heavily armed, wearing Israeli army uniforms and balaklavas, and accompanied by soldiers.
During the attack, eyewitnesses recognized a particularly violent settler, going by the name of Eitan Yardeni, who resides in the illegal Israeli outpost of Havat Ma’on.
Colonial attacks and ethnic cleansing in Masafer Yatta
In the 1980s, Israeli authorities designated a part of Masafer Yatta as ’Firing Zone 918’, a closed military zone. This zone includes the land where Khallet Al-Dabaa is located. Since this declaration, residents have been at risk of forced eviction, house demolitions, and forcible transfer. One of the houses that was damaged during the December 8th attack has been demolished and rebuilt 5 times in the past.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), around 1,150 Palestinians lived in the firing zone in 2022, including 569 children.
In the past weeks, residents of Masafer Yatta have reported violent and continuous raids by armed settlers and Israeli soldiers, who assault and abduct Palestinians, destroy critical infrastrcutre in the villages such as power grids and water tanks, and steal property and livestock.
Palestinians have also been left homeless following demolitions by army bulldozers in several villages including Deirat, Umm Lasafa and Umm Qissa.
In October, Palestinians from the village of Khirbet Zanuta were forcibly displaced after armed settlers threatened them that they had 24 hours to leave their homes, before the settlers would come back and “kill everyone”.