Jewish Settlers throw stones at a Palestinian home, FILE PHOTO. © Mussa Qawasma
In what has been dubbed the ‘Jewish Terror’, settler attacks on Palestinians and their property tripled last year, with nearly 500 incidents reported ranging from racist graffiti, to assault, to the destruction of olive trees.
According to figures reported by Haaretz, there were 482 politically motivated crimes carried out by settlers in the West Bank last year, compared to 140 in 2017. It’s the highest number of incidents in four years.
These attacks frequently include assaults and stone throwing. The most common episodes have seen racist, nationalistic, and anti-Muslim graffiti spray painted around Palestinian neighborhoods and on property, with about 540 vehicles damaged.
The attackers have also targeted olive trees and grapevines. Around 7,900 trees were destroyed or damaged in what is seen as a calculated attack on the livelihood of many Palestinians, who rely on the trees for their income.
Settlers often frame these incidents as “price tag” attacks, a form of retaliation for Palestinian violence and Israeli government policies they perceive as threatening their settlements. Some attacks are used as a form of intimidation in a bid to capture more Palestinian land.
There are between 500,000 and 600,000 Israeli settlers living in the occupied West Bank in settlements that are considered illegal under international law.
Jewish Settlers assault Palestinian farmers, al-Mughayir, Ramallah District, 22 March 2018
In October, settlers killed Aisha Rabi, a mother of eight, when they threw a large rock at the car she was in. A week before that incident, a Palestinian man killed two Israeli settlers in a factory where they all worked.
The spike in attacks was also backed up by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which recorded 265 incidents in which Israeli settlers killed (3) or injured (115) Palestinians or damaged Palestinian property, up to mid-December last year. This represents a 69-percent increase compared with 2017.
Between December 18-31, the OCHA reported 12 Palestinians were injured and at least 380 trees and 69 vehicles were vandalized in 14 incidents of settler violence.
Meanwhile, the OCHA reports a 28-percent decrease in incidents of violence carried out by Palestinians in the West Bank, with 181 incidents reported. However, seven Israelis were killed in 2018, compared to four in 2017.
Members of the hardline group of settlers dubbed the ‘Hilltop Youth’ are said to be responsible for a chunk of the attacks on Palestinians. The settlers, many of whom are teenagers, reside in illegal settlement outposts (settlements that even the Israeli government considers illegal) largely in the Shiloh Valley, where many of the attacks took place.
Jewish Hilltop Youth Gang in a Facebook post at their Habaladim outpost
“The hilltop youth are less deterred than before and are feeling emboldened,” an Israeli defense official told the Times of Israel.
Settler violence was at its peak in 2014, but numbers fell in the aftermath of a firebomb attack on a home in Duma in 2015, which killed three members of the Dawabshe family including an 18-month-old, and left a four-year-old boy as the only survivor, with burns to 85 percent of his body.
Israeli authorities clamped down on a circle of far-right settlers as a result, but after many of them were released last year, attacks have crept up again.
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