Settler attacks: Another pillar of violence in the West Bank

Paul Duer |

Turmusaya (West Bank), June 30 (BLAZETRENDS).- Violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank is not new, but the magnitude and frequency of the attacks have escalated in recent days, including a massive attack on Turmusaya , a quiet town where its inhabitants prepare to fight, further aggravating the tension.

When Sharif al Araj, a Palestinian businessman based in Panama, returned to his village this month for the first time in 10 years, he could not imagine rescuing people from burning mansions or watching a neighbor die from four shots to the chest.

Although Turmusaya had suffered attacks in the past, neither Sharif nor any of its inhabitants anticipated an attack like the one on Wednesday of last week, in which some 400 Israeli settlers descended from the Jewish settlement of Shiló armed with guns, stones, gasoline and explosives, destroying everything in its path.

This was just one of multiple settler attacks on Palestinian villages in the past week, drawing a strong international reaction, including from the White House, partly due to the ineffective intervention of Israeli security forces.

Division in the Government

Behind the scenes, this has generated a controversy among members of the Government who have rejected the attacks and those who have defended the settlers and questioned the arrest of 12 of them -4 in administrative detention, without charges or trial- for these attacks.

The latter belong to the ultra-right wing of the Executive, whose presence in the coalition is seen as a source of empowerment for the settlers in the West Bank, whose attacks against Palestinians have increased exponentially in recent years.

The assault on Turmusaya, the day after a Palestinian attack that killed four Israelis, left the first dead by Israeli fire in the town in three decades, Omar Qattin, a 27-year-old father of two, wounding 12 Palestinians and more than 30 houses and 60 vehicles damaged or burned.

Fear of new attacks

A week after the attack, in this town of imposing mansions, whose inhabitants are mostly Palestinian-Americans who spend only a few months a year here, the smell of burning still smells and the air is tense, charged with fury and impotence.

The face of Qattin, whose death has not yet been clarified, is present on every corner, and overnight, the town was filled with flags of Palestine and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the party’s armed wing. Palestinian official, Fatah.

Al Araj, who had come to visit his family and planned to stay alone for a couple of weeks, has joined a group of neighbors who patrol the approaches to the town every night.

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“Instead of scaring us away, what they do is cause more people to settle here. I’m going to stay, ”he explained to BLAZETRENDS, noting that many other natives of Turmusaya have decided to stay to protect the town instead of returning to where they usually live.

Multiple residents consulted about the situation agree on two things: this attack will not be the last, but the next one will find them prepared to defend themselves.

Alone before the problem

Given the passivity of the Israeli security forces, which they do not trust and which they even accuse of participating in the attack, and the scant influence of a Palestinian National Authority, which they feel does not represent them, they say they have no one but themselves.

Some focus on the need to obtain fire trucks to control the fires, while others have already prepared buckets with stones and some are even considering buying weapons.

This week, the heads of Israel’s security forces – the Army, the Internal Security Service and the Police – issued a rare joint statement calling the settler attacks “nationalist terrorism” and warning that they may cause an increase in violence by part of Palestinians

escalation of violence

The West Bank is experiencing its highest peak of violence since the Second Intifada (2000-2005), with 142 Palestinians killed this year, many militants but also civilians, including 23 minors.

Most died in armed clashes with Israeli troops, but at least nine lost their lives in violent incidents with Jewish settlers – up from 3 last year – according to UN data.

In parallel, the area has seen the proliferation of new Palestinian armed groups, which carry out more and more attacks and have left 25 dead on the Israeli side, most of them settlers and five of them minors.

In the family home of Omar Qattin, the young man who died during the assault on Turmusaya, the atmosphere, as in a good part of the Palestinian territory, is not one of mourning but of struggle.

“What they are trying to do is what they did in 1948, but then we had no experience or ways of communicating to organize ourselves,” Awad Jbara, Omar’s uncle, told BLAZETRENDS, referring to the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled or they were expelled during the conflict unleashed after the creation of the State of Israel.

“But that is not going to happen to us again, we know how much we suffered in ’48. We are not going to allow a second Nakba,” he says.

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