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West Bank Palestinians Masafer Yatta decry settler attacks | News of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Hebron, Occupied West Bank – Aisha al-Huraini hasn’t had a full night’s sleep in over a week.

“Everyday, [Israeli] soldiers are raiding the village,” she said, sitting on the couch in her home in the village of al-Tuwani in the Masafer Yatta region of the occupied West Bank. On the bench next to hers sat a large poster with a picture of her husband, Hafez, 52, who was released after 10 days in detention in Israel on Thursday.

“Soldiers fired tear gas and stun grenades right in our house,” adds Aisha, a mother of eight. “No never ends.”

On the floor outside her front door is the residue of these grenades; a carpet on the ground with burn marks on it. From the house, an Israeli flag can be seen, fluttering above the Israeli settlement of Ma’on and the Havat Ma’on outpost, located just a few hundred meters away. Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory are illegal under international law.

On September 12, Hafez and other Palestinian farmers were approached by a group of Israeli settlers from the Havat Ma’on outpost, carrying metal pipes and an M-16 rifle, as the farmers This is taking care of the small family farmland where they grow. olives, figs, tomatoes, zucchini and other vegetables. One video of the incident shows Hafez grabbing a shovel and swinging it at the group, striking one of the settlers and shattering his skull. According to Sami, Hafez’s 25-year-old son, one of the settlers began hitting Hafez with a metal pipe, breaking his arm.

Moments later, the armed settler fired his M-16 into the air. This was when Aisha heard the noise outside and ran towards the farm. “When I arrived, Hafez was lying on the ground with blood on his hands,” she said.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Ambulance arrived with Israeli police officers and soldiers and his family loaded Hafez on a trolley. But they were stopped by Israeli police and soldiers, who informed them that Hafez was being held. According to Sami, the settlers drew knives and stabbed the ambulance tires.

Hafez went to Israel’s Ofer military court to face charges of attempted murder, which was later reduced to aggravated bodily harm – with two large plasters wrapped around his arms. He was released on bail after 10 days. None of the settlers involved in the incident were arrested.

Sami told Al Jazeera: “This is the profession: the victim is caught and jailed while the perpetrator remains free. “This case sets an example to other settlers that if they continue to attack us, they will never face any consequences.”

Palestinian farm near Israeli settlement
Huraini family farm, with Har Ma’on outpost in the background [Jaclynn Ashly/Al Jazeera]

‘Very violent’

Attacks by Israeli settlers are common in al-Tuwani, and Hafez has been arrested at least four times before. A prominent human rights activist, Hafez comes from a long line of outspoken Palestinians. His mother, Fatma Huraini, a Palestinian refugee who died in July at the age of 95, was a notable figure in the resistance movement in Masafer Yatta. According to her family, she suffered a number of injuries during confrontations with Israeli forces and settlers over the years, causing her to lose an eye and an ear.

Sami has been arrested several times and says he was intentionally run over by an Israeli settler in 2018 who broke a bone in his leg. His 18-year-old brother was first arrested at the age of 12, and has since been arrested at least six times, according to Aisha.

Huraini’s neighbor, 68-year-old Khadra Rabia, was born and raised in al-Tuwani. She remembers when the first settlers arrived in the area in the 1980s, setting up an outpost that would expand into the Ma’on settlement.

“They have always been very violent towards us since they came here,” she told Al Jazeera, sitting on the floor of her small house. Rabia said she was attacked several times while grazing sheep or trying to access her farmland.

According to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, violence escalated with the establishment of the Havat Ma’on outpost in 1997 and then again in 2000, with the outbreak of the Second Palestinian Intifada. . Violence consists of trying to burn down Palestinian shacks, attack shepherds and farmers, prevent them from accessing their pastures or farmland, vandalize olive and fruit trees, release dogs on people, stealing and harming sheep.

INTERACTIVE- 4 Mediator Violence

The group said Israeli authorities generally do not intervene in these attacks and do not enforce the law against violent settlers.

Rabia has a large scar protruding from the side of her mouth. She says she upheld it in 2014 when confrontations broke out with about 25 Israeli settlers who tried to prevent her and two other farmers from accessing their land. A rock hit her mouth, causing a laceration on her face that sent her to the hospital. Two years ago, she was shot in the chest by the Israeli army with a tear gas canister.

“They make our lives very difficult,” she said. “Before, we lived simply. We never bother anyone. We just herd sheep, plant crops and take care of our children. But these settlers interrupted everything.”

According to the Huraini family, al-Tuwani has seen a notable increase in raids and attacks on settlers in Israel since the May 4 trial of the Israeli Supreme Court. decision denied petitions from the families of Masafer Yatta, who among 1,300 Palestinians live in an area designated by the Israeli military as a “fire zone” since the 1980s. Al-Tuwani village is adjacent. with this area.

The Huraini family has been active in the movement to prevent forced displacement of communities in the shooting area, which are facing imminent eviction. Daily raids and periodic demolition campaigns have defined life for these communities since the May decision, which the United Nations said. Experts say could lead to a possible war crime.

“Once they’re done getting everyone out of the firing range, they’ll come looking for us too,” Rabia said. “No Palestinians are safe here.”

Khadra Rabia
Khadra Rabia said she was attacked several times over the years [Jaclynn Ashly/Al Jazeera]

Hafez was released on bail of 10,000 shekels ($2,890) and was surrounded by the warm arms of his family and supporters, who had lined up at his home in al-Tuwani to welcome the activist. The court also ruled that Hafez was not allowed to enter the site of the incident – his own land – for 30 days.

Aisha told Al Jazeera: “We are very happy to bring him home with us. “He is a good man who is protecting his house, his land and his family. But we knew it was only a matter of time until the settlers came back to attack us – and the police once again took him away from us.”

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