Violence Against Palestinians on the Rise Amid Israel's 'Hands-off' Approach in West Bank

Yaniv Kubovich
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The aftermath in the village of Khirbat al-Mufkara after dozens of Israeli settlers hurled stones and vandalized property, today.
The aftermath in the village of Khirbat al-Mufkara after dozens of Israeli settlers hurled stones and vandalized property, today. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Yaniv Kubovich

The number of violent incidents perpetrated by Jews against Palestinians in the West Bank has risen dramatically in the past two years, as officials point to a “a permissive atmosphere” for extremists in the area. 

In the first half of 2021, 416 anti-Palestinian incidents were reported – more than double the figure for the first half of 2020 and more than all of 2019.

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In 2019, there were 363 incidents and 507 reported in 2020. 

Defense officials point to the killing of an Israeli woman, Esther Horgan, by Palestinian terrorists in December of 2020 and the death of Jewish settler, Ahuvia Sandak, who was killed in a police chase after people he was riding in the car with were suspected of throwing stones at Palestinians, for leading to a shift in approach both on a political and security level. 

According to one official, this change of approach has been particularly noticeable in the Central Command of the Israel Defense Forces, whose territory includes the West Bank. In an effort to avoid confrontations with the settlers, the style includes permitting the settlers to “let off steam.” 

Of the 416 incidents reported between January and June of 2021, there were approximately 139 incidents of vandalism, stone-throwing, assaults and so-called price-tag incidents, used to describe offenses targeting Palestinians in retaliation for Palestinian crimes against Jews or to protest Israeli government plans to evacuate certain settlements. The 139 figure was roughly 30 higher than the first half of 2020 and 65 higher than the first half of 2019.

The number of incidents involving physical attacks by Jews on Palestinians in the West Bank in the first half of 2021 more than doubled, from 52 between January and June 2020 to 130 in the first half of 2021. In the first half of this year, the incidents resulted in 23 people injured, compared to 8 in 2020 and 7 in 2019.

In a recent closed-door consultation, defense officials warned senior members of the defense and political establishments that this trend was not curbed by pandemic restrictions imposed in Israel and West Bank settlements. 

Most of the anti-Palestinian incidents in the past two years took place in and around the West Bank cities of Hebron, Ramallah and Nablus.

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