UN warns about rising Israeli settlers’ violence against W. Bank Palestinians, as Gaza carnage continues

Amid Israel’s escalating attacks against Gaza that have killed nearly 8,000 men, women and children, Israeli settlers have displaced more than 820 Palestinians from the occupied West Bank, worsening the already terrible situation in the ravaged enclave.

Israeli settler violence has increased significantly, from an already high average of three incidents per day in 2023 to seven a day now, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OHCA).

During this period, OCHA recorded 171 settler attacks against Palestinians, resulting in 26 different casualty incidents, damage to 115 Palestinian properties, and some 30 reported incidents of both property damage and casualties.

Cases of harassment, trespass and intimidation are not included in the reporting, although they too increase the pressure on Palestinians to leave their land, the Office noted.

An increasing number of Israeli settlers have moved onto West Bank land, occupied by Israel since 1967, undermining a potential two-State solution to the long running conflict, where two States live peacefully side by side.

Access restrictions, typically imposed by the Israeli authorities, have also intensified throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. These are particularly severe in areas near Israeli settlements and in the so-called “Seam Zone”; the Palestinian area isolated by Israel’s 712-kilometre-long barrier in the West Bank.

Settlers too have imposed movement restrictions, OCHA said, blocking access roads to Palestinian communities, limiting their access to essential services and livelihoods. In some cases, settlers have also damaged water resources which herding communities rely on.

Humanitarian assistance services, including health and education, have also had to stop since the restrictions intensified, OCHA added.

The Office also noted the use of firearms to intimidate Palestinians, with more than one in every three settler-related incidents since 7 October involving settlers using firearms to threaten Palestinians, including by opening fire.

On 12 October, eight households, comprising 51 people, were displaced from the Shihda WaHamlan herding community in Nablus in northern West Bank, after settlers threatened them at gunpoint, saying they would kill them and set their tents on fire during the night, according to OCHA.

It added that in almost half the cases, Israeli security forces “accompanied or actively supported” the attackers.

Many of the latter incidents were followed by confrontations between Israeli forces and Palestinians, where three Palestinians were killed, and dozens injured. Eight Palestinians were killed by settlers directly, as of the end of October, the Office noted.

Damage or destruction was caused to 24 residential structures, 40 structures used for farming, 67 vehicles and more than 400 trees and saplings.

Meanwhile, according to the latest estimates, Israeli strikes on Gaza have killed over 8,500 Palestinians, including 3,500 children. An estimated 1 million people have been displaced from the northern half of Gaza, according to the United Nations.

Calls for a halt to Israel’s bombardment of Gaza have continued to grow as Israel’s military operations ramped up in recent days.

By Perviz Iqbal