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Palestinian Groups Send a Letter to Third States on the Dangerous Escalation of Settler Violence against Palestinians
08، Nov 2023

On 7 November 2023, Palestinian human rights organisations* sent an urgent letter to Third States to address the alarming escalation of Israeli settler violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem, particularly those living in Area C. This intensification of settler attacks is occurring in parallel to Israel’s ongoing military aggression on Gaza and the deteriorating human rights situation of Palestinians in every part of historic Palestine. The letter urged Third States to act immediately to prevent the continuation and escalation of the unabated settler violence, as Israeli settlers, mostly under the protection of Israeli occupying forces, injure and kill Palestinians; damage their sources of livelihood; and forcibly displace them through home demolitions or threats to their lives.

Noting the 133% staggering increase of Israeli settler attacks against Palestinians since 7 October 2023, compared to the first eight months of 2023, the letter underlined that the surge of attacks is driven by escalating Israeli mobilisation against Palestinians, decades of settler violence impunity, and ongoing discriminatory statements and actions by Israeli officials, including loosening Israel’s gun control. 

Between 7 October and 6 November 2023, Israeli settlers killed at least nine Palestinians, including at least one child, and injured 62 Palestinians, as the Israeli occupying forces killed at least 147 Palestinians, including at least 44 children, in the occupied West Bank, and injured around 2300. These settlers are well-armed, organised, and often accompanied by Israeli occupying soldiers or individuals in military attire. Our documentation and monitoring indicate that Israeli occupying forces and settlers routinely fire live ammunition without restraint, injuring and killing Palestinians, with OCHA reporting that around 27 percent of all injuries sustained by Palestinians since 7 October 2023 have been caused by live ammunition.

Israeli settlers and occupying forces frequently target Palestinian agricultural lands and critical infrastructure, including vital resources like water wells and roads. This has had a significant impact on the ongoing olive harvest season, which is crucial for many Palestinian families’ livelihoods. Settlers are coordinating through WhatsApp and Telegram to share photos and locations of Palestinian harvesters, encouraging violence and incitement. Additionally, Israeli Finance Minister, Bezalel Smotrich, has called for creating “sterile zones” to prevent Palestinians from harvesting their lands near to where Israeli illegal and colonial settlements were established. This increase in settler attacks has resulted in the killing of a Palestinian, Bilal Saleh, while picking olives, and forced many Palestinians to leave their homes and livelihoods to avoid potential attacks.

Since 7 October 2023, over 905 Palestinians, including 356 children from 15 Palestinian herding/Bedouin communities have been forcibly displaced due to Israeli settler violence and restrictions on movement, according to OCHA. Since 2022, nearly 2,000 Palestinians have been displaced by settler attacks, with almost half of these displacements occurring in the last month. Moreover, between 7 October and 3 November 2023, Israeli occupying authorities demolished 34 Palestinian homes, forcibly displacing at least 165 Palestinians, citing reasons such as the lack of building permits, which are rarely granted, punitive measures, or during military operations.

Even before the start of the ongoing military aggression on Gaza, the Israeli government openly declared its intent to annex the West Bank surreptitiously de facto annexed the entirety of the West Bank, and rapidly expanded settlements. Between January and July 2023, Israel advanced 12,855 settler housing units, a significant increase compared to previous averages. The government also granted sweeping powers to Smotrich to expedite the construction of these settlements, effectively granting him control of the entire settlement-building process. In March 2023, the Knesset repealed the 2005 Disengagement Law, allowing Israelis to enter former settlements in the northern West Bank, as the Israeli government passed a two-year budget for 2023-2024, allocating substantial funds for its colonial settlement enterprise. 

Considering Israel’s consistent disregard for Palestinians’ right to life throughout historic Palestine, coupled with institutionalised impunity for settlers, the letter reiterated our calls to immediately mobilise to enforce a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, and to push Israel to reinstate the supplying of fuel, water, food, electricity and medial and humanitarian aid necessary for the survival of the protected population therein, and called on States to intervene immediately, specifically to:

1. Immediately take effective measures to ensure the protection of Palestinians against Israeli settlers, including by increasing international protective presence to Palestinian communities who have been displaced or are currently under the imminent threat of being forcibly displaced, and to those tending to their land, particularly in Area C;

2. Demand that Israel lift movement restrictions to allow Palestinians to carry out the olive harvest, as the olive harvest is a critical source of income and food staple for Palestinian communities; 

3. Recognise Israel’s colonial settlement enterprise as one policy designed to maintain an institutionalised regime of racial domination and oppression over the Palestinian people as a whole, and  address the root causes of Palestinian dispossession and domination, and the undermining of the individual and collective rights of the Palestinian people, inherent in Zionist settler colonialism;

4. Match your statements of condemnation of Israel’s colonial settlement enterprise with arms embargoes, economic sanctions and countermeasures against Israel; and targeted individual sanctions against Israeli settlers, including those with dual-citizenships, and Israeli settler organisations;

5. Take steps to implement domestic legislation to prohibit the import of settlement goods and services into their jurisdictions, as products fuelling and incentivising the ongoing violence against the protected Palestinian population; 

6. Demand Israel end its institutionalised impunity for settler violence which has led to killing and injuries of Palestinians, damage to Palestinian properties and infrastructure, and forcible transfer of Palestinians, including by conducting full and impartial investigations, and holding Israeli perpetrators accountable (both Israeli settlers and Israeli occupation forces); and

7. Recognise Israel’s judicial system as part and parcel of Israel’s apartheid regime, and provide full cooperation to the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC and the UN ongoing Commission of Inquiry, to ensure justice and accountability.

*Endorsing Palestinian organisations: Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC); Bisan Center for Research and Development; Palestine Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR); Ma’an Development Center; The Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem (ARIJ); The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy - MIFTAH; Sabeel, Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center; Palestinian Hydrology Group (PHG); Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC); Al-Ard for Agricultural Development; The Community Action Center (CAC) at Al-Quds University; MUSAWA- The Palestinian Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession; The Jerusalem Human Rights Consortium, comprising of: The Jerusalem Legal and Human Rights Centre (JLAC), The Land Research Centre (LRC), The Society of Saint Yves, and The Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC); and Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC), comprising of: Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Aldameer Association for Human Rights, Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Defense for Children International – Palestine, Hurryyat - Center for Defense of Liberties and Civil Rights, Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center, Muwatin Institute for Democracy and Human Rights - Observer Member, The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and The Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) - Observer Member.

**Al-Haq is currently documenting the killing of Randa Abdallah Abel Aziz Ajaj, a 40-year-old mother of six, and Hussein Mu’taz Hussein Mousa, a 16-year-old Palestinian child, and is yet to confirm if they were killed by Israeli settlers or by the Israeli occupying forces.

Read the full letter here