This article highlights the recent Hamas massacre in Israel and Israel’s retaliatory airstrikes on Gaza. Amidst this turmoil, settlers in the West Bank are seizing the opportunity to aggress against and displace Palestinians from their small villages.
In the occupied West Bank, Israeli Jews residing in settlements and military personnel have been responsible for the deaths of 51 Palestinians since last Saturday, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health based in Ramallah. The violence instigated by Israeli settlers has led to the complete depopulation of at least two villages, namely Al-Qanub and Wadi Al-Sik.
In a particularly distressing incident, a Palestinian resident of At-Tuwani, a village located in the Masafer Yatta region, now lies in critical condition after a settler, accompanied by a lone Israeli soldier, infiltrated the community last Friday and ruthlessly shot him at close range. The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem has meticulously documented this egregious attack.
Israeli military personnel have been setting up fresh checkpoints to restrict the mobility of Palestinian villagers. On Thursday evening, near Yabrud, situated northeast of Ramallah, soldiers reportedly fired upon a vehicle carrying a Palestinian family, as relayed by family members. Tragically, Randa Abdullah Abdul Aziz Ajaj, aged 37, lost her life in the incident, and her son, Ismail Ajaj, sustained injuries to his foot and shoulder. While her husband and another child were also occupants of the vehicle, they fortunately escaped unharmed. An official spokesperson from the Israel Defense Forces contended that the soldiers resorted to opening fire due to the vehicle’s erratic driving, which they perceived as a threat.
Across the West Bank, Palestinian residents are experiencing a heightened presence of armed settlers surrounding their villages, more frequent military roadblocks, and increasingly stringent movement constraints. A resident from the village of Qaryut described the situation as living under a virtual siege, with many West Bank villages effectively sealed off by barricades of earth, rendering it nearly impossible to move about freely. They added, “Settlers are ubiquitous, and whenever we approach houses near a settlement, they open fire. They are exploiting the security situation in Gaza to seek retribution in the West Bank, as it remains relatively unmonitored.”
In a distressing incident on Wednesday in the village of Qusra, near Nablus, three Palestinians, namely Moa’th Odeh, Musab Abu Rida, and Obida Abu Sarur, were fatally shot, while a 6-year-old girl sustained an upper-body injury. The identity of the assailants remains uncertain. The attack commenced with masked settlers firing upon residences in the village, as reported by three eyewitnesses and medical personnel who provided initial treatment at the scene. Video footage captures six masked individuals armed with pistols and M-16 rifles discharging rounds within the village. Later in the day, according to witnesses, another village resident, 13-year-old Hassan Abu Sarur, was also fatally shot when soldiers entered the village following the departure of the settlers.
According to Palestinian media reports on Thursday, there were incidents of settlers attacking the funerals of the four Qusra residents who had been killed the day prior. As per the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the settlers fatally shot both a father and son, Ibrahim and Ahmed Wadi.
Leading up to these attacks, settlers in Esh Kodesh and the surrounding vicinity had been issuing ominous warnings to Qusra’s residents in the preceding days. These warnings explicitly threatened retribution in response to Hamas’s actions in southern Israel. An unsettling photo had been shared with residents a few days prior, depicting a group of masked men brandishing fuel tanks, an electric saw, and axes, accompanied by a message in Arabic and Hebrew that read, “To all the rats in the sewers of Qusra village, we are waiting for you and we will not feel sorry for you. The day of revenge is coming.”
According to an individual from Qusra, identified only by his first name, Abed, the incident unfolded around noon when approximately 20 masked men entered the village and began pelting the homes of families residing at its outskirts with stones. These aggressors had come from the direction of the Esh Kodesh outpost. In response, the villagers rushed to help evacuate these endangered families, as the settlers even attempted to set one of the houses ablaze. Tragically, three individuals lost their lives during this ordeal.
Eyewitnesses reported that at least 15 Palestinians were injured by gunfire, with medical personnel tending to the wounded noting that some of their conditions were critical.
Bashar al-Kariyuti, a Palestinian ambulance driver who arrived on the scene, recounted, “I evacuated a girl who was shot; she was injured inside her house and was bleeding. The girl’s father was also shot in the face. It was impossible to recognize him.”
Additionally, a third eyewitness, Ahmed, requested that his last name be withheld for security reasons. He explained that the military remained inside their observation post while settlers opened fire on Qusra’s residents. He recounted how his cousin was struck in the head, and his brother was shot right at the entrance to his home. He further alleged that soldiers confiscated cameras and recording equipment, seemingly to erase evidence.
Regarding the attack, an Israeli military spokesperson stated, “An IDF force operating on the outskirts of Qusra reported hearing gunfire. The claim about Palestinians being hit by gunfire is being investigated.”
In parallel with the Qusra incident, settlers have reportedly launched attacks on at least 18 villages throughout the West Bank since the start of Hamas’s activities on Saturday, according to Israeli human rights group Yesh Din. The military announced its intention to distribute M-16 rifles to settlers in the West Bank due to the prevailing security situation. Media outlets affiliated with extremist settler groups in the region have called on settlers to prepare to “conquer the villages near you” and to “destroy anyone who joins the enemy.”
On a separate note, settler violence recently led to the expulsion of all residents of Al-Qanub, a small village north of Hebron consisting of eight families located near the Ma’ale Amos and Asfar settlements. Village residents reported that settlers set fire to three houses, which were constructed from iron rods covered with thick cloth, along with all their contents. Abu Jamal, a resident of Al-Qanub, recounted how settlers arrived, forcibly evicted them, and proceeded to burn his house, along with the possessions and livestock inside. Families living on the outskirts of Turmus Ayya, near the Shiloh settlement, detailed similar experiences, including being ordered to leave their homes and enduring an ongoing checkpoint manned by armed settlers, some in partial military attire.
In a mountainous area in southern Hebron, settlers reportedly carried out violent attacks against residents of two tiny villages on Tuesday, during which they also bulldozed two houses in the village of Simri. The residents had previously left due to settler violence.
One resident, who requested anonymity out of fear of settler retaliation, described how three settlers approached him, one armed with a military weapon, another with a gun, and the third with a knife. They subjected him to physical assault, making threats and saying that it was now a war. He stressed that he had no connection to the conflict in Gaza and pleaded with them not to harm his family, but they persisted in their aggression.