A Palestinian father and three of his sons said they were badly beaten by Israeli settlers while harvesting olives in the southern West Bank on Thursday, the latest in a series of such incidents during the annual picking season.
Ayad Hamid Halayka, 60, and his sons Muhammad, Hamid and Omar were taken to Hebron Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, the Red Crescent said, following the alleged attack outside the village of ash-Shuyukh, northeast of Hebron.
Footage from B’Tselem, a left-wing Israeli NGO that documents human rights abuses against Palestinians, appeared to show several settlers, including one person carrying a baton, approaching the Palestinian olive harvesters.
The group is seen facing off with Halayka with one asking in Hebrew “Why are you coming here to make trouble?” as Halayka tells them he only speaks Arabic and an argument ensues.
As the man pushes Halayka, he grabs the settler’s arm and a scuffle appears to break out before the footage cuts out.
According to B’Tselem, the group also sicced dogs on the Palestinians. It said injuries included a broken arm, head wounds requiring stitches, and an eye injury.
This morning a group of settlers attacked a Palestinian family that was harvesting olives in their land near Dura, in the Hebron region. After family members refused to leave their land, the settlers beat the Palestinians with sticks and set dogs on them. > pic.twitter.com/WXSXVJBU6H
— B'Tselem בצלם بتسيلم (@btselem) November 3, 2022
Police did not respond to a request for comment.
According to the Palestinian news outlet Ma’an, the settlers came from Metzad, a settlement that sits across a valley from ash-Shuyukh and abuts fields belonging to residents of the town.
Friction is often heightened in October and November, when Palestinians go out into family-owned agricultural plots to pluck ripened olives, including on land near where Israelis have established settlements.
During the harvest there “are many more clashes between Jewish settlers and Arabs” in comparison to other times of the year, said Michael Milshtein, an expert on Palestinian affairs at Tel Aviv University.
“Many of these lands are very close to the settlements, so there are all kinds of disagreements, even court cases, regarding [ownership of] the lands,” he said.
Olive production accounts for 4.8 percent of Palestinian GDP in the West Bank, according to the World Bank. It provides a livelihood for an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 Palestinian families, according to the Palestine Trade Center.
Abbas Milhem, the executive director of the Palestinian Farmers’ Union, told The Times of Israel that the proximity of Palestinians’ olive groves to Israeli settlements presents “a major challenge for Palestinian families.”
“Settlers intensely confront Palestinian families with ferocious attacks, including uprooting olive trees, spraying them with bullets and destroying them,” he said.
Dror Sadot, a spokesperson for B’Tselem, expressed concern that the far-right’s strong showing on Tuesday’s election will embolden settlers to ramp up violence against Palestinians.
“The settlements always enjoyed permission, assistance, and funding from the government,” Sadot said. “But of course with a far-right government that’s also controlled by settlers, we won’t be surprised to see a rise in attacks by settlers, who will feel freer to act violently.”