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Armed Israeli Settlers Kill One Palestinian and Injure 30 Others in an Attack on Al-Mghayyer Village

Saturday, 16 February 2019 00:00 Reporting period: 21 – 27 January 2019
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Photo of Hamdi Taleb Na’san and his four children; circulated online.

Date: 16 February 2019

Al-Mghayyer is a Palestinian village, located about 22 kilometres to the northeast of Ramallah City. Approximately 94 per cent of the village is located in Area C, an area over which Israel retains full security and administrative control according to the Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement (Oslo II, 1995).[1] Since 1967, Israel has declared areas in the eastern part of the village as closed military zones, confiscating 719 dunums of village lands as of 2010,[2] for the construction of Israeli military checkpoints, military bases, parts of the Annexation Wall, and an Israeli-only-used by-pass road (No. 458) on its land for the sole benefit of nearby Israeli settlements. The village of Al-Mghayyer is surrounded by illegal Israeli settlements such as “Mizpe Rahel” to the north of the village, and outposts, including “Adei Ad” to the northwest.

Settler Attack and the Killing of Hamdi Taleb Na’san

On Saturday, 25 January 2019, at approximately 2:30 pm, around 25 Israeli settlers from the Adei Ad outpost attacked Al-Mghayyer, armed with rifles, axes and sticks. The settlers indiscriminately attacked the residents of Al-Mghayyer, killing 38-year-old Hamdi Taleb Na’san, and injuring 30 others, nine of whom were transferred to the Palestinian Medical Complex in Ramallah due to critical injuries sustained from live bullets. In order to repel the attack, about 25 residents from Al-Mghayyer gathered and threw stones at the settlers.

In addition, during the attack, two settlers drove a farming tractor that belonged to one of Al-Mghayyer’s residents, in the direction of the Adei Ad outpost, causing damage to the tractor. One of the village’s residents called on an Israeli soldier, stationed in a nearby watchtower surveying the scene, to intervene and stop the settlers from driving the tractor to the outpost, but the soldier refused. Residents of the village also called the Israeli liaison officer, who came to check, while the settlers continued to carry out their attacks. When the soldiers finally arrived, it was 5:00 pm, and after the settlers had killed Hamdi. In addition, the soldiers intervened in support of the setters, bombing the village with tear gas canisters. 

Hamdi Taleb Na’san, 38, was shot and killed with a live bullet in the lower back during the settler attack on Al-Mghayyer. Adel Ibrahim Abu Alia, 57, who was present at the time, and who was injured with a live bullet in the right shoulder, recalls:

“I saw seven Israeli settlers coming towards the village from Qalsoun Mountain, north of Al-Mghayyer. They were armed, and one of them was wearing a black jacket, holding two rifles and firing successive shots, while another one was holding a box from which he handed the settlers munitions. I saw this and immediately ran to stand with the people of the village, as they were gathering to defend the village from the armed settlers by throwing stones [at the settlers]. There were around 25 people from Al-Mghayyer. Meanwhile, about 20 more settlers arrived. They were armed – some indiscriminately shot at us, while others were sniping, from a distance of about 20-50 meters from us.

Just as I was arriving, I witnessed 20-year-old Mu’ath Abu Alia being shot. Hamdi Al-Na’san, helped Mu’ath as well as three other injured people to the ambulances. When Hamdi returned, he stood next to me on the hill, where youth near us threw stones at the settlers. Two of the settlers surrounded Hamdi and I. They were about 20 meters away, but as they were situated higher up, we felt trapped.

At that moment, Hamdi yelled at me to lie down as the two settlers to our right were shooting. We both lay down. The settler in the black jacket, who I mentioned earlier, was shooting with two rifles, and the bullets passed above our heads, hitting the ground and stones around us. I tried to crawl a bit but could not continue. I then saw Hamdi lay motionless on the ground. I noticed that he had been critically injured. At that moment, I felt a gunshot from behind, in the right side of my shoulder. Although in pain, I ran away towards the village. I looked back at Hamdi as I was afraid for him. I saw the same settler with the black jacket getting close, coming within two meters from Hamdi and opening fire at the youth who were trying to reach to help him. The youth helped me reach the ambulance.”[3]

Hamdi was pronounced dead at 4:30 pm the same day.

Legal Analysis

The attack on Al-Mghayyer village, perpetrated by Israeli settlers, illustrates Israel’s disregard for its duties as belligerent occupant under international law. Notably, the transfer of the Occupying Power’s civilian population into territory it occupies constitutes a grave violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and amounts to a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Rome Statute).[4] As such, Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law. This has been reaffirmed by the United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution 2334 of 2016, UN General Assembly Resolution 70/89 of 2015, and the International Court of Justice in 2004.

The presence of Israeli settlements in the OPT have contributed to increasing violence instigated by Israeli settlers against Palestinians. Settler violence, ranging between physical attacks, killings, attacks against property, forced evictions, amongst others, is common,[5] and is often carried out in the presence, and sometimes under the protection of Israeli Occupying Forces. Meanwhile, Israeli settlers who carry out such attacks, including those involving killings and physical harm, are rarely held to account by the Israeli authorities.[6] Israel, as Occupying Power, has obligations towards the protected Palestinian population to restore and ensure public order and civil life in occupied territory. This includes ensuring the policing of the territory and the protection of civilians from attacks, such as those instigated by settlers against Palestinian residents in Al-Mghayyer on 25 January 2019. The failure of the Israeli soldier located in the watchtower to intervene, underscores Israel’s disregard for its duty towards the occupied population in this regard. In addition, the killing of Hamdi Taleb Na’san Israel further violates its obligations under international human rights law towards the occupied population, including the obligation to respect, protect, and ensure respect of the right to life, property, security of person and dignity.[7] The killing of Hamdi may amount to the war crime of wilful killing.

Moreover, the presence of settlements in the OPT, which is directly linked to Israel’s systemic policy of land confiscation and appropriation, restrictions on freedom of movement against Palestinians, denial to access land and natural resources, and settler violence have all contributed to the creation of a coercive environment, intended to force the transfer of Palestinians from areas in the vicinity of settlements. Forcible transfer is listed as a crime against humanity as per Article 7 of the Rome Statute.[8]Al-Haq calls on Israel to abide with its obligations under international law, which includes the dismantling illegal Israeli settlements in the OPT and the Annexation Wall, as advised by the International Court of Justice in its opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory in 2004.[9] In light of continued impunity for war crimes, Al-Haq calls on the international community to hold Israel and non-state actors, including settlers, accountable for breaches of international law.

[1] According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of statistics for year 2018, Al-Mghayyer village has a population of 2910. See Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, “Projected Mid -Year Population for Ramallah & Al-Bireh Governorate by Locality 2017-2021”, available at:  

http://www.pcbs.gov.ps/Portals/_Rainbow/Documents/RamallhE.html

[2] See, The Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem, “Al Mughayyir village profile”, 2012, available at: http://vprofile.arij.org/ramallah/pdfs/vprofile/Al%20Mughayyir_vp_en.pdf

[3] Al-Haq Affidavit No. A39/2019, given by Adel Ibrahim Abu-Alia, a resident of Al-Mghayyer village, Ramallah Governorate, on 29 January 2019.

[4] Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, 1998, Article 8(2)(b)(viii).

[5] See for example, Al-Haq, “Continuing Impunity for Israeli Settlers: One Palestinian Killed, Property Vandalized in the West Bank”, 23 April 2018, available at: http://www.alhaq.org/documentation/weekly-focuses/1219-continuing-impunity-for-israeli-settlers-one-palestinian-killed-property-vandalized-in-the-west-bank

[6] Al-Haq, “Institutionalised Impunity: Israel’s Failure to Combat Settler Violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”, 2013, available at: http://www.alhaq.org/publications/publications-index/item/institutionalised-impunity-israel-s-failure-to-combat-settler-violence-in-the-occupied-palestinian-territory?category_id=11

[7] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966, Article 6.

[8] Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court 1998, Article 7(1)(d). 

[9] See, Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Advisory Opinion, 2004.

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