Settler Violence, Dispossession, and Displacement Accelerate in Hebron, Amid Gaza War

Scores of Palestinians in rural areas have been displaced as settlers burn homes, destroy solar panels, steal sheep, and vandalize other property.

Amid Israel’s brutal bombing campaign and invasion of the besieged Gaza Strip, which has killed many thousands, illegal settlers in the West Bank have vastly ramped up their attacks, murders, and land theft against indigenous villagers. Roughly 226 Palestinians, including more than 50 children, have been killed in the West Bank since the bombardment of Gaza began.

A recent investigation published in +972 Magazine, an Israeli outlet, documents the assault against Palestinians in the southern city of Hebron and its surrounding areas.

“In multiple places, Palestinians were forced to leave their residences under the weight of settler attacks launched day and night. The settlers have burned homes, stolen sheep, blocked roads, and vandalized property. They have shot, beaten, threatened, and body searched Palestinian residents. Even the city of Hebron has not been spared from this campaign, with the Israeli army and settlers imposing a lockdown in the area known as H2, and emergency laws further extricating perpetrators from accountability,” Amjad Iraqi reports in +972 Magazine.

Since the October 7 Hamas attack in southern Israel, about 400 Palestinians located in the Hebron region, including over 250 women and children, have had to flee their land and property. The communities of Khirbet Zanuta, ‘Atiriyah, Khirbet A’nizan, Maqtal Msalam, Al-Radeem, and Al-Qanoub have been entirely evacuated and several seized by illegal settlers.

On the morning of October 7, in Khirbet Zanuta, settlers attacked violently, targeting families, and destroying their solar panels and stoning their tents (in which they had slept at night for years to avoid being attacked in their homes by settlers). Soon afterward, the village was “completely abandoned.”

Then on October 9, Al-Qanoub, north of Hebron, was attacked by more than three dozen armed settlers. A 76-year-old sheep farmer named Mohammed Shalaldeh, and his family of 10, were violently kicked off their land by settlers.

Around 4 p.m. in the afternoon, the armed settlers stole Shalaldeh’s entire flock of 150 sheep, broke every one of his solar panels, ransacked his house, smashed all the family’s belongings, and, putting guns to his face, threatened to kill him. They returned hours later, around 10 p.m., when no lights were working in the house, attacked Shalaldeh’s family once again and stole approximately $15,000 Shalaldeh had earned selling sheep and was saving to buy grain for his flock. The settlers then forced Shalaldeh and his family to leave their home. As they walked away with nowhere to go, the settlers burned the family’s house down.

Four days later, Al-Radeem, a rural community located south of Hebron, was attacked by settlers wearing Israeli Defense Forces uniforms, as many do now. Amer Abu Awad and his father were beaten and threatened with death if they would not give up their homes and their land. Abu Awad reported, “They assaulted me, beat my elderly father, pushed him to the ground, dragged him through the puddles, and pointed weapons at us…They said I had to leave by morning, or my family and I will be finished.”

Abu Awad was unable to leave the next day because the roads had been closed, one of many draconian measures restricting the movement of Palestinians that have been implemented during the Gaza war. “After hours of interventions, he managed to escape with his family of five along with his flock of sheep to the town of As-Samu, leaving behind his house, furniture, livestock barracks, and grain for the sheep. Abu Awad and his family had to carry all their belongings by foot; the Israeli army would not allow any vehicles to enter the area,” Iraqi explains.

That evening, settlers retuned to Al-Radeem and demolished Abu Awad’s house with a bulldozer. They also set about destroying his grain, livestock barracks, and solar panels. “Nothing remained except ruins.”

Concurrently, several Palestinian neighborhoods inside Hebron have been attacked by soldiers and settlers alike, as well as being put under a severe lockdown and curfew enforced by the Israeli apartheid army. Guns are regularly pointed at women and children, children have not attended school in well over a month, Jewish-only roads are being built as Palestinians are prevented from entering their homes in some cases, others are not allowed to go outside even to obtain water and other necessities.

Imad Abu Shamsiyya, a resident of Tel Rumeida, warned “The evenings are nightmarish. No one can sleep because the settlers may attack us at any moment. The settlers even walk around in military uniform. About 120 families in the neighborhood are completely cut off from the outside world. It can take long hours to be allowed to take a person to the hospital or to get an ambulance. We can’t even bring a gas pipe through the checkpoint. We haven’t been able to get a permit from the Israeli Coordination and Liaison Office to enter our own house for more than 20 days.”

Areej al-Jabari, a mother of five who lives in the Al-Ras neighborhood, elaborated on the dire conditions, telling Iraqi “as time passes, the situation is getting worse.” She continued, “We ran out of water on the third day of the war. I sent my young sons to fill plastic bottles from the mosque near the house. Suddenly, I heard soldiers yelling. I ran to the door and found the soldiers pointing their weapons at my children. My kids ran toward me, and we entered the house and closed the door while the soldiers continued to curse us and shout at us… We have been at home ever since. The schools are closed, and everything is paralyzed. We live in an open prison! Food may run out soon. There is no way out. If you leave your house, you may get arrested or killed.”

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that, in this period since the war on Gaza began, settler attacks on Palestinians have more than doubled.

Last week, Anne-Claire Legendre, a spokesperson for the French Foreign Ministry, told a press conference “Concerning the West Bank, I’d like to express the strongest condemnation by France of the violence carried out by the settlers against the Palestinians… Violence which has the clear objective of forced displacement of the Palestinians and a policy of terror.”

Volker Turk, the United Nations’ human rights chief, similarly admonished that the “intensification of violence and severe discrimination against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem,” creates a “potentially explosive situation.”

He reiterated, “I am ringing the loudest possible alarm bell” regarding the deteriorating situation in the West Bank.

For Palestinians, prior to October, this year was already one of the deadliest on record. Before the end of September, more than 220 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli forces and settlers, including over three dozen children. That figure includes 187 people who were murdered in the occupied territories and another 37 killed – mostly amidst a smaller bombing campaign – in the Gaza Strip.

Connor Freeman is the assistant editor and a writer at the Libertarian Institute, primarily covering foreign policy. He is a co-host on the Conflicts of Interest podcast. His writing has been featured in media outlets such as, Counterpunch, and the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. He has also appeared on Liberty Weekly, Around the Empire, and Parallax Views. You can follow him on Twitter @FreemansMind96.