Video shows Israeli extremists assaulting Palestinians in their West Bank homes

Armed men seen strutting through Jordan Valley village, harassing residents; rights groups say there has been an increase in settler violence since Oct. 7 onslaught by Hamas

Gianluca Pacchiani is the Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Masked settlers hurl stones at Palestinian homes in the northern West Bank village of Burin, March 3, 2023. (Yesh Din)
Masked settlers hurl stones at Palestinian homes in the northern West Bank village of Burin, March 3, 2023. (Yesh Din)

Footage has emerged showing what appears to be armed Israeli settlers storming homes in the Palestinian village of Mu’arrajat in the Jordan Valley on Tuesday night and assaulting local residents.

A video circulated on social media showed several individuals armed with guns and wearing khaki clothes entering a Palestinian home, shouting in Hebrew and mocking the residents.

Some Palestinian men were also present, armed with sticks, their faces covered, while the faces of the Israelis were clearly visible.

At one point, one of the Israelis hit a Palestinian in the stomach with the butt of his rifle, then pointed the weapon at the man as he ran away.

The police and the IDF did not respond to requests for comment by time of publication.

The incident took place during a night of tensions in the West Bank, as Israeli security forces killed two senior terror operatives in Jenin, and clashes erupted in the area amid the operation, with Palestinian gunmen opening fire at troops and others hurling explosive devices.

In the weeks following the October 7 onslaught by Hamas against Israel, in which 3,000 terrorists slaughtered 1,200 people in southern Israel, most of them civilians, Palestinians have alleged a severe backlash in the West Bank against Palestinian civilians, who have allegedly been repeatedly attacked and harassed by extremists.

According to activist groups such as B’tselem and Peace Now, which oppose Israeli rule in the West Bank, as well as the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), this wave of harassment has led hundreds of Palestinians in vulnerable rural communities to abandon their homes and villages.

Since October 7, Israeli troops have arrested some 2,000 wanted Palestinians across the West Bank, including more than 1,100 affiliated with Hamas. According to the Palestinian Authority health ministry, some 200 West Bank Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, and in a few cases settlers.

Based on military estimates, the vast majority of the 200 Palestinians killed since October 7 were shot dead during clashes amid arrest raids. Around 60% of them, according to data seen by The Times of Israel, were armed with either a firearm or an explosive device.

The IDF is aware of at least three cases of uninvolved Palestinians being killed by troops in recent weeks, and a handful of cases of settlers killing Palestinians, which are still under investigation.

The Yesh Din organization says there have been more than 185 settler attacks against Palestinians in over 84 towns and villages around the territory since October 7.

On Thursday, Channel 12 reported that according to a classified document, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir has pressured senior police officers in the West Bank to refrain from going after right-wing extremists who commit offenses against Palestinians.

Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai (2L) and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir at a handover ceremony for Tel Aviv police commander, in Tel Aviv, July 19, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

While police denied the report and said that it did not receive such instructions and that it enforces the law impartially in cases of nationalist crimes, Ben Gvir did not reject the claim. In a response, the minister denounced what he called a false media campaign against settlers and against himself.

“The police in Judea and Samaria enforce the law in an uncompromising way against those who throw stones and Molotov cocktails on a daily basis with the goal to kill Jews,” Ben Gvir wrote, using the biblical name for the West Bank. “Law enforcement against the real criminals will continue with even more vigor.”

Yesh Din replied in a statement that “Jewish offenders in the West Bank  repeatedly benefit from lenient enforcement and enjoy the support of law enforcement, often with silence or more active cooperation by the military forces on the ground – which they interpret as tacit permission to continue committing crimes against Palestinians.”

One of the principal concerns pointed to by Israeli rights organizations regarding violence against Palestinians since October 7 is the IDF’s formation of six volunteer regional defensive battalions to help protect West Bank settlements.

An armed and masked reserve IDF soldier from one of the newly created ‘regional defense battalions’ harasses Palestinians in the village of A-Tuwani in the South Hebron Hills region of the West Bank, November 12, 2023. (Screenshot, courtesy Yesh Din)

Following the Hamas massacres in southern Israel, numerous members of security squads that provide protection for settlements were called up by the army for operations in Gaza or on the northern border with Lebanon. To compensate for this loss of security manpower, new reserve regional defensive battalions were created by the IDF comprising eligible volunteers from the settlements themselves as well as men from inside sovereign Israel who have previously undergone IDF training.

Activists have said that this situation has blurred the line between settlers and the military, and enable extremist settlers to use their military status to harass and attack Palestinians.

Two such reservists were recently discharged after a video emerged of them entering a Palestinian school in the southern Hebron Hills and harassing people there, with the army saying they had acted in contravention of IDF orders and procedures.

“There are violent settlers who, two or three months ago, were beating, attacking and harassing Palestinian communities in order to push them off their land. Now they’re recruited into the IDF, they’re in uniform with guns, and have full authority as soldiers, and they’re doing the same thing,” said Yehuda Shaul, co-director of the dovish think tank Ofek.

“That’s how we get to the reality today, where Palestinians have basically no buffer between them and violent settlers, and the settlers are operating with more impunity than usual.”

Jeremy Sharon and Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report

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