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Illegal Occupation and Power Abuse by Israeli Settlers in Masafer Yatta

27 February 2024 | International Solidarity Movement | Masafer Yatta

Occupation forces and settler harassing Palestinians. @ISM

On February 25th, armed illegal Israeli settlers and border police approached and violently argued with Palestinian shepherds in Al-Rakeez, Masafer Yatta, driving them away from their land.

Two Palestinian shepherds were grazing their flocks at the top of a hill, where they have been recently told by Israeli occupation forces they are allowed to stay. About thirty minutes after the shepherds started grazing, one settler in civilian clothes and wearing a machine gun approached them. Amichai – the settler- lives in a close by settlement called Abigail and he has harassed Palestinian shepherds and families living in the area in the past.

He aggressively spoke with one of the shepherds, claiming that they are not allowed to be there. Few minutes later, three settlers in military clothes showed up, escorted by three border policemen. They all intimidated the shepherds and the activists present on the scene to step back, saying that they cannot be closer than 500 meters to the top of the hill, which included almost the entire valley. They refused to show any map or evidence, even when asked, as a testament of their abuse of power and their illegal actions, especially during times of war.

Amichai, one of the illegal settlers from the settlement Abigail. @ISM

They left after they pushed back the shepherds.

The area of Masafer Yatta, as other areas as in the West Bank, suffers from the Israeli massive ethnic cleansing project which has massively accelerated since last October. Al-Rakeez is one of the 14 communities which was at risk of forcible transfer due to the establishment by the Israeli occupation of the military zone 918, but shepherds were still able to graze in the surrounding area. One month ago, exploiting wartime, the area was sealed off and the access to the road leading to the valley was closed.

In this area, villages are being teared apart increasingly. It has become impossible, or at least very dangerous, being in the land and also walking from one village to another even though they are only a few hundred meters away from each other.

Israel’s ethnic cleansing project is being lead jointly via an expansion of illegal outposts and settlements over more Palestinian land, and by armed settlers – who nowadays are mostly in army uniform – threatening and pushing Palestinians from their homes and land and prohibiting them to shepherd. Settlers, together with the Israeli army and civil administration, have blocked roads and sealed off villages, invaded houses, destroyed private property, threatened Palestinians they will kill them all if they do not leave.

Since the beginning of the genocidal attack on Gaza, 16 Palestinian communities have been forced to leave their villages in the West Bank.

The settler and occupation forces on the hill. @ISM