Urgent: Israel Escalates Assault of Palestinians in Area “C” of the West Bank
Issued by the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC)
24 October 2023
The harrowing onslaught of Israeli settler colonial violence in the West Bank of Palestine persists with lethal and intensifying force. As the international community’s attention is focused on Gaza, Israeli settlers and military forces are exploiting the situation to escalate their organized attacks on Palestinian communities in Area C of the West Bank.
Since October 7, Israeli forces or settlers have killed 95 Palestinians, including 28 children, and injured at least 1828 Palestinians, including at least 157 children, in the West Bank. Around 28 percent of these injuries are as a result of live ammunition. As a result of intense Israeli attacks, at least 607 Palestinians have been forcibly displaced from their homes. These acts of aggression are not only condoned but often directly supported by the Israeli government.
The consequences of these relentless attacks are existentially threatening to Palestinian communities, and include death or injury, forced displacements, disruption of livelihoods, denial of access to vital farmlands, a lack of safe passage between communities, and the omnipresent threat of violence. This dire situation is not merely a series of isolated incidents but rather is emblematic of a systematic and brutal campaign of settler colonial violence aimed at wiping out the indigenous Palestinian population. Without immediate intervention, Israeli settler attacks, especially in Area “C”, are certain to escalate even further.
Israeli Settler Attacks
Israeli settler attacks and violence against Palestinians continue to intensify, particularly targeting farming and herding communities in Area C of the West Bank. Since October 7, OCHA has recorded 120 settler attacks – some involving the Israeli military – leading to casualties or property damage. This raises the daily average of settler attacks to seven incidents per day, a significant increase compared to the daily average of three incidents that had been reported since the start of this year. These are only the OCHA-documented attacks – the reality is far higher. (For a map of violence through October 19, see Annex, Figure 1, Settler Violence Vulnerability in the West Bank, WBPC).
These settlers are well-armed, organized, and often accompanied by soldiers or inpiduals in military attire. A Knesset security committee reports that Israeli settlers in the West Bank possess around 150,000 firearms, a number likely to increase to 165,000 this year. Upon the outbreak of the recent war, Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir announced the ministry’s purchase and distribution of 10,000 assault rifles along with helmets and body armor to further arm Israeli settler militias. On October 15, the Knesset eased gun control regulations to arm more Israelis. Testimonies and reports indicate that Israeli forces and settlers fire live ammunition without restraint, harming and murdering civilians, including women and children.
Israel systemically targets critical infrastructure, particularly transportation, water, and agriculture, which are essential for daily life and livelihoods. Coordinated attacks target farmers, as settler WhatsApp and Telegram groups promote violent incitement and actively encourage such actions. These settlers circulate messages containing photos and locations of harvesters near roads frequented by settlers, encouraging coordinated attacks on Palestinians. The dramatic surge in settler attacks on and harassment of Palestinian olive harvesters has led to communities urgently calling upon the international community for a protective presence.
A few examples:
(source: West Bank Protection Consortium and OCHA)
Wadi Al-Seeq (Ramallah): On October 12 the entire community was forcibly displaced after violent attacks. There are many reports of physical abuse and assault by Israeli settlers and soldiers, including at least one attempted sexual assault. The attack included armed Israeli settlers and soldiers binding, stripping, repeatedly beating, burning, and urinating on three Palestinians. Further, settlers vandalized their school, making it vulnerable to complete demolition, similar to the school in Ein Samiya.
In Masafer Yatta (Al-Khalil/Hebron): Settlers targeted and destroyed water pipes that serve as the primary water source, increasing their already-high risk of forced displacement due to ongoing settler violence and their water insecurity in a water-starved region. Settlers remain close by and have set up a tent to establish their presence.
Al Farisiya – Nab’a Al-Ghazal (Tubas): On October 18, settlers broke into and plowed Palestinian-owned land to seize it. On October 19, settlers entered the community, harassed the residents and children, assaulted the farmers, and allegedly tried to kidnap a child.
Al-Nuewi’ma (Jericho): On October 20, settlers set fire to a Palestinian household.
Khirbet Al-Ratheem (Al-Khalil/Hebron): On October 21, armed settlers from the Meitarim settlement outpost attacked Palestinian herding families, damaging a residential structure, an animal shelter, and a solar panel. The settlers threatened at gunpoint a Palestinian family (16 members, including 8 children), forcing them to flee their home.
Jurat Al-Kheil (Al Khalil/Hebron): On October 22, settlers likely from the Asfar settlement set fire to several structures and tons of animal fodder.
Al-Sawiya (Nablus), Immatin (Qalqilya), and Kafr ad Dik (Salfit): On October 22-23, settlers damaged over 200 Palestinian olive trees
Forced Displacement of Palestinian Communities
Since October 7, there has been an intensifying pattern of forced displacement of Palestinian communities in the West Bank due to Israeli settler and military violence. At least 607 Palestinians from 82 households in 13 Bedouin/herding communities in Area C of the West Bank have been forced out of their homes between October 7 through October 23. Over half of the forcibly displaced inpiduals are children.
These documented forcibly displaced communities include, but are not limited to:
(source: West Bank Protection Consortium)
Wadi Al-Seeq – Jerusalem: 142 (whole community), including 66 children.
Ein Al-Rashash – Nablus: 90 displaced, including 25 children.
Al-Mu’arrajat Centre – Jericho: 72 displaced, including 30 children.
Bariyyat Tuqu’ – Bethlehem : 11 displaced, including 3 children.
Shu’b Al-Butom – Al-Khalil (Hebron): 56 displaced, including 30 children.
Sa’ir Al-Ganoub – Al-Khalil (Hebron):: 40 displaced, including 20 children.
Abu Al-Kbash – Nablus: 12 displaced, including 6 children.
Khirbet Ratheem – Al-Khalil (Hebron):: 18 displaced, including 9 children.
East Taybeh – Ramallah: 29 displaced, including 10 children.
Khirbet Samrah – Tubas: 10 displaced, including 6 children.
On October 17, WBPC documented the displacement of 470 Palestinians from 9 communities since October 7 (see Annex, Figure 2, Forcibly transferred communities and affected population in WB, WBPC). Just two days later on October 19, OCHA reported a surge in these figures, with approximately 545 Palestinians forcibly displaced from these 13 communities. The number has since risen to at least 607 as of October 23. In September 2023, OCHA reported that between 2022 and the time of the report, Israel had forcibly displaced a total of 1,105 Palestinians from 38 out of the 63 communities it had surveyed. A significant number of forcible transfers has been in East Ramallah (see Annex, Figure 3, Israeli settlers dispossess Bedouin communities, Al Jazeera).
Military Lockdown and Resource Inaccessibility
Since October 7, Israel has put the West Bank on military lockdown, effectively trapping the Palestinian population in their respective villages, towns, and cities. This military lockdown intensifies the preexisting heavy restrictions on movement. As of early 2023, OCHA documented 645 movement obstacles in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem and H2). Over half (339) of these obstacles restrict access to main roads, urban centers, services, and agricultural areas, severely disrupting Palestinian livelihoods. The manufactured isolation of Palestinian communities in the West Bank exacerbates their suffering.
The severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian communities in the West Bank are causing profound disruptions, impeding access to essential services such as food markets, medicines, animal fodder, and necessities like water. Moreover, they are obstructing children from attending school and impeding humanitarian workers from conducting their vital work and delivering humanitarian aid.
The heightened Israeli aggression against Palestinians in the West Bank has taken a dire toll on the livelihoods of farmers and rural communities, who rely on their lands for sustenance and are already grappling with major obstacles. As a result of the lockdown, settler violence, and military attacks, many Palestinian farmers are unable to reach their lands. This comes during the olive harvest season, which is the source of livelihood for countless Palestinian households.
Israel is further denying them access to their fields during an especially crucial harvest season like that of olives, dates, and guavas. Israel’s systematic denial of Palestinian farmers’ access to their fields robs them not only of their immediate source of income but also threatens the long-term food security of Palestinian communities. This is a blatant attack on Palestinian food sovereignty, a fundamental right to access, produce, and consume food in dignity. These actions exacerbate existing oppressive restrictions and reflect a grave violation of basic human rights.
The restrictions and closures have led to a concerning increase in food insecurity among Palestinian communities. With entrances to villages closed, many families are struggling to access basic food needs, often subsisting on minimal sustenance like bread and tea for days. This exacerbates the already precarious food situation in the West Bank, putting vulnerable populations at risk. The ongoing crisis in the West Bank underscores the urgent need for continued humanitarian support to address food insecurity and other pressing issues.
Israeli Expansion into the West Bank
Before the start of this most recent war, Israel’s hardline government had aggressively accelerated settlement expansion in the West Bank, including the approval of thousands of new housing units. These settlements are illegal under international law. From January through July 2023, Israel advanced 12,855 settler housing units across the West Bank, a stark increase compared to the previous yearly average of between 1,000 and 8,500 units. The government also granted sweeping powers to the finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, to expedite the construction of these settlements, effectively granting him control of the entire settlement-building process. In March 2023, the Knesset repealed Israel’s 2005 Disengagement Law, thus lifting the ban on Israelis entering former settlements in the Northern West Bank. Settler caravans have arrived at the formerly dismantled Homesh settlement, signaling the encouragement and support for increased settler expansion and actions in Area C. In May 2023, the Israeli government passed a two-year budget for 2023-2024 that includes an allocation of NIS 3.5 billion ($941 million) for settler roads in the West Bank, NIS 570 million for the Ministry of Settlements and National Missions, and NIS 399 million to the Settlements pision. Israel’s explicit plan to expand settlements in the West Bank is dependent on the forcible displacement and extermination of Palestinian communities.
This escalated wave of Israeli settler violence, forced displacements, restriction of movement, resource inaccessibility, and settler expansion underscores the urgent need for international attention and intervention to address the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in the West Bank. We stress the pressing need for safeguarding the rights and security of these communities and urge the international community to take immediate action.
Figure 1, West Bank Protection Consortium, October 19
Figure 2, West Bank Protection Consortium, October 19
Figure 3, Al Jazeera, October 19