As the coronavirus crisis with its and imposed isolation shutdowns continues, during the past week alone settlers have attacked Palestinians and their property in the Occupied West Bank on several occasions. Overnight Monday-Tuesday, April 13-14, a group of masked Israeli settlers in the southern West Bank pepper-sprayed and hurled stones at three Palestinian men and firebombed their two vehicles before fleeing the scene, police said in a statement.
The incident took place near Metzoke Dragot, where a group of 20 far-right extremists is being housed in an outpost established for them by the Israeli military in order to self-quarantine, after they had contact with a COVID-19 carrier.
In response to the attack, Joint List MK Ofer Cassif (Hadash) tweeted: “Jewish terrorists are repeatedly accepted with love and understanding by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s police, and this was the case again tonight when we saw the racist violence that only miraculously didn’t result in the loss of human life. Instead of establishing ‘Ma’ale Coronavirus’ these hilltop youth should have been placed behind bars.”
The army last week confirmed that it had established and was securing a “temporary outpost” for a group of Israeli teen settlers after they refused to abide by the government’s coronavirus guidelines. The group, from the Givat Ronen outpost in the occupied northern West Bank, had initially been taken to a Jerusalem hotel on Monday morning, April 6, after one of them tested positive for COVID-19. When the group arrived at the state-run quarantine center in Jerusalem, they were told that each of them would have to reside in a separate room like all other guests. When they refused, police decided to transport them by bus to an alternative site in the south. While en route, the hilltop youth wreaked havoc inside the bus, shattering most of its windows. Several of the far-right hooligans managed to escape from the bus and flee, but were apprehended by Border Police.
On the same day, Monday, and for the second week in a row, Israeli settlers from the illegal Gush Etzion settlement bloc opened the wastewater drains to flood Palestinian farmlands in the nearby village of Beit Ummar the southern West Bank, according to Mohammad Awad, a local activist. Awad told the Palestinian news agency Wafa that the wastewater flooded fields planted with grape vines, wanton vandalism that the settlers intentionally repeat every year to destroy the crops and cause serious damage and financial loss to the farmers. The flooded land covers approximately 20 dunums (2 hectares or about 5 acres) and is owned by two local Palestinian families.
On Sunday evening, April 12, settlers uprooted about 350 olive saplings belonging to Palestinian farmers in the town of al-Khader, near the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem. Head of the Colonization Resistance Commission in Bethlehem, Hasan Breijieh, told Wafa that settlers from a nearby settlement uprooted the saplings owned by local villagers. Earlier Sunday, settlers destroyed another 50 olive saplings belonging to Palestinian farmers in the same area.
Attacks by Jewish settlers on Palestinian farmers and their property have been on the rise during the current state of emergency in the West Bank due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Over the years, Israeli occupation authorities have fostered a culture of impunity for Jewish settlers committing acts of vandalism and physical attacks on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.