On February 26, at least 400 Israeli settlers attacked several Palestinian villages in Nablus, including Hawara, killing one man and injuring hundreds of others. Settlers burned down more than 30 homes and at least 100 cars while beating Palestinians with metal rods and rocks. According to Israeli media, six settlers were arrested.
On March 1, Bezalel Smotrich, Israel’s finance minister who also handles civil administration in the occupied West Bank, said Hawara should be “wiped out”.
What are Israeli settlements?
Israeli settlements are Jewish communities built on Palestinian land. Between 600,000 and 750,000 Israeli settlers live in at least 250 settlements and outposts built by the Israeli government and settlers, across the occupied Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem.
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That is equivalent to roughly 11 percent of the total Jewish Israeli population. They live beyond the “internationally recognised” borders of their state, on Palestinian land that Israel militarily occupied in 1967 and continues to do so until today. Settlers also lived in the besieged Gaza Strip until 2005, when they were evacuated.
Israeli settlements are illegal under international law as they violate the Fourth Geneva Convention, which bans an occupying power from transferring its population to the area it occupies. This is for a variety of reasons, including protecting civilians from the theft of resources by the occupying power and to prevent changes in the demographic makeup of the occupied territory.
The majority of settlements have been built either entirely or partially on private Palestinian land. Despite being outside of Israel proper, these settlers are granted Israeli citizenship and receive government subsidies that significantly lower their cost of living. In contrast, Palestinians living in the West Bank are subject to Israeli military law.
The majority of settlers are armed and Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem suffer from hundreds of Israeli settler attacks each year. Such attacks, which include shootings, stabbings, arson, beatings and rock-throwing, have become more organised over the past few years. Every year, thousands of Palestinian trees and cars are burned by these settlers.
Many of these incidents have been recorded on video showing that the attacks often take place under the protection or in coordination with the Israeli army, sometimes with soldiers and settlers shooting side by side.
Increasing number of settler attacks
Between 2010 and 2019, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs recorded at least 2,955 settler attacks, in which at least 22 Palestinians were killed, and at least 1,258 others were injured. The governorates of Nablus, Hebron and Ramallah had the highest number of incidents.
Since the start of 2023, Israeli settler-related violence reached an average of three incidents per day compared with two incidents per day in 2022, and one incident per day in 2021, the UN told Al Jazeera. This is the highest daily average of settler-related incidents affecting Palestinians since 2006, it added.
According to Israeli human rights organisation Yesh Din, which has been tracking settler violence since 2005, just seven percent of settler attacks have led to criminal charges with only three percent of investigations leading to a conviction.
Palestinians killed by settlers in 2023
During the first two months of 2023, at least five Palestinians have been killed by Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank. In comparison, three Palestinians were killed in 2022, five in 2021, none in 2022 and two in 2019.
Here are the names and locations of the Palestinians killed by Israeli settlers since the start of 2023: