Wednesday, July 17, 2024
Wednesday, July 17, 2024
Home » Palestinians in the West Bank Say Israeli Settlers Attack Them, Seize Their Land Amid the War With Hamas

Palestinians in the West Bank Say Israeli Settlers Attack Them, Seize Their Land Amid the War With Hamas

by Cahan Garakhanova
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East Jerusalem — Just to enter the driveway of his own home in East Jerusalem, Sa’adat Gharib must pass through a gate controlled remotely by Israeli security forces. Gharib’s home is on his family’s ancestral land, but it has been surrounded by an imposing metal fence, sitting within a cage encircled by Israeli settlements.

Gharib said the settler communities were built around his home — illegally — when he was a child. He said the settlers have offered to pay him whatever he wants to leave, but he has refused. He told CBS News that his family, including his young children, have been threatened.

Gharib said his 11-year-old son Sabri was detained for six hours after his soccer ball rolled close to the settlements. Asked about it, Sabri grinned with youthful bravado and insisted he wasn’t scared.

“But I was,” piped up his sister.

The circumstances have taken a toll on Gharib.

“As a father I feel broken inside, because my children are unable to play outside like other kids,” he said.

Patrolling just on the other side of the fence, armed with a rifle, we found Israeli settler Jonathan Landman. He said he was “a man of peace,” and that the fence was built to keep him and the other settlers safe. He was born there, on land he insisted that his mother purchased.  

“When you live here all of your life… you get afraid and you need to protect yourself,” he said. “If the Palestinians leave their guns, we will live in peace here… If the Israelis leave their guns, they will kill us.”

The West Bank, the much larger of the two Palestinian territories, is occupied by Israeli security forces. It’s made up of rugged, limestone hills dotted with olive groves — land that is at the very heart of this conflict.

Some 700,000 Israelis live in settlements scattered across the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem. 

The settlements are regarded as illegal under international law, but they’ve been encouraged by Israel’s current government, which swung sharply to the right when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu formed a coalition with parties that had long existed on the fringes of Israeli politics.

Israeli civilians, including settlers, are increasingly well-armed, and they’re also increasingly emboldened. Since the Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers launched their bloody Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel — in which Israel says about 1,200 people were killed and more than 200 taken hostage — the West Bank has reached boiling point, and there’s fear it could spark a civil uprising.

The Ministry of Health in the West Bank says almost 200 Palestinians have been killed in the territory since Oct. 7, and the United Nations humanitarian relief agency OCHA says almost 1,150 people have been displaced from their homes there due to settler violence and land access restrictions.

Among those displaced are around 400 men, women and children from ethnic Bedouin families in the village of Wadi Al Seeq, according to Abu Basher, an elder from the community of Arab herders. He shared cellphone video with CBS News that appears to show armed settlers forcing him and others to leave at gunpoint at the end of October.

“People were bleeding, and women and children were screaming,” he said. “I was terrified my wife and children would be slaughtered.”

Basher said the settlers destroyed their homes and property, even their local school, and stole money, cellphones and valuable livestock.

“I am so depressed. All my hard work over the past 48 years…all gone,” he said. “I still haven’t processed the shock… I have lost all hope.”

Some of the displaced Bedouins have been living in tents on land belonging to a neighbor — temporary shelter while they try to get back on their feet.

Activist Mohammed Mattar was helping protect the Bedouins after they said they’d received death threats from the settlers, but it turned out it was Mattar who needed protecting. 

He said settlers kidnapped him and two others, stripped them naked and then beat and tortured them for more than eight hours. 

“After that we were in a state of collapse,” he said. “Then someone started to pee on us. That’s when I started screaming.” At one point, he said Israeli soldiers joined in the abuse. An Israeli military commander has since been dismissed and an investigation opened, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The settlers even bragged about it, posting an image on social media showing the bruised men blindfolded with their hands bound.

“The settlers believe if you’re Arab… they can do anything they want,” he said. “They can take your blood, your money, your women… anything.”

Mattar’s bruises have healed and, despite his ordeal, his desire for justice has only strengthened. He will take the Bedouins’ case to court, he said, but only once the war is over.

The Bedouin herders put on a brave face for the sake of their children, but they told CBS News it felt as if they were in a dark tunnel with no light at the end. Winter is coming, and they’re terrified of what a future without their land might hold.

Source : CBS

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