Bilal Muhammad Saleh

Bilal Muhammad Saleh (left), a 40-year-old Palestinian, was killed by a settler in the West Bank on October 28, 2023.

(Photo: B'Tselem)

30 Israeli Groups Urge Global Community to Help Stop Surging West Bank Settler Violence

"Unfortunately, the Israeli government is supportive of these attacks and does nothing to stop this violence."

With international focus on the horrors of Israel's assault on Gaza, 30 Israeli human rights and anti-occupation organizations on Sunday aimed to draw attention to a surge in settler violence against Palestinians in the illegally occupied West Bank.

The coalition of groups—including B'Tselem, Breaking the Silence, and the Israeli arms of Amnesty International and Physicians for Human Rights—released a joint statement calling on the international community "to act urgently to stop the state-backed wave of settler violence which has led, and is leading to, the forcible transfer of Palestinian communities in the West Bank."

In retaliation for a Hamas-led attack earlier this month—in which over 1,400 Israelis were killed and around 200 others were taken hostage—Israel has waged what some legal scholars are calling a genocidal war, killing more than 8,000 people in Gaza.

"Settlers have been exploiting the lack of public attention to the West Bank, as well as the general atmosphere of rage against Palestinians, to escalate their campaign of violent attacks in an attempt to forcibly transfer Palestinian communities," the coalition noted. "During this period, no fewer than 13 herding communities have been displaced. Many more are in danger of being forced to flee in the coming days if immediate action is not taken."
"Palestinian farmers are particularly vulnerable at this time, during the annual olive harvest season, because if they are unable to pick their olives they will lose a year's income," the groups explained. "Yesterday Bilal Muhammed Saleh from the village of As-Sawiya south of Nablus was murdered while tending to his olive trees. He was the seventh Palestinian to have been killed by settlers since the current war began."

The Palestinian Health Ministry said Saturday that 111 Palestinians in the West Bank have been killed since October 7.

Jewish settlers have recently tried to scare Palestinians into fleeing the West Bank by displaying dolls covered in blood or a substance meant to mimic it and distributing leaflets with messages like "Run to Jordan before we kill our enemies and expel you from our Holy Land, promised to us by God."

The coalition said Sunday that "unfortunately, the Israeli government is supportive of these attacks and does nothing to stop this violence. On the contrary: government ministers and other officials are backing the violence and in many cases the military is present or even participates in the violence, including in incidents where settlers have killed Palestinians."

Over the past three weeks, Israeli forces fatal violence against Palestinians in the West Bank has included raids and an airstrike on a mosque in the densely populated Jenin refugee camp.

"Moreover, since the war has begun there has been a growing number of incidents in which violent settlers have been documented attacking nearby Palestinian communities while wearing military uniform and using government-issued weapons," the coalition continued. "With grave concern and with a clear understanding of the political landscape, we recognize that the only way to stop this forcible transfer in the West Bank is a clear, strong, and direct intervention by the international community."

In response to the statement, Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), said on social media that the "world must act."

Meanwhile, in Gaza, Israeli forces have moved to a "second stage" of the war with ground operations, despite global demands for a cease-fire—though notably not from the U.S. government, which provides Israel with billions of dollars in annual military support.

"Israel's major ground offensive in Gaza, following weeks of bombardment that have reduced large parts of neighborhoods to rubble, raises grave concerns for the safety of all civilians caught in the fighting," HRW executive director Tirana Hassan said in a statement Sunday. "Thousands of children and other civilians have already been killed."

"Palestinian armed groups are continuing to indiscriminately launch rockets at Israeli communities," she added. "All civilians, including the many who cannot or do not want to leave their homes in northern Gaza, retain their protections under the laws of war against deliberate, indiscriminate, or disproportionate attacks."

Over objections from Israel and the United States, the U.N. General Assembly on Friday adopted a nonbinding resolution demanding that "all parties immediately and fully comply with their obligations under international law," and calling for "an immediate, durable, and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.