Palestinians from the village of Burka were attacked on Monday by Israeli settlers while trying to work their land at the entrance to the evacuated settlement of Homesh.
Three of them were hit with rocks, sticks, and fists, and evacuated to Rafidia Hospital in Nablus with light head wounds. Video footage distributed by the Shomron Regional Council of settlements also shows Palestinians throwing rocks at settlers. The police have since opened an investigation.
Homesh was evacuated as part of Israel's 2005 disengagement plan and Israelis are banned from staying within its bounds, but settlers frequent the spot and operate an outpost called the Homesh Yeshiva.
A investigator for rights group Yesh Din who witnessed the incident told Haaretz that he entered the plot with the farmers when they noticed the settlers. Later on, he said, a vehicle came from the main road and blocked the exit. “We were in the middle, unable to move, and within a few moments some 15 masked settlers came from Homesh and began throwing rocks at us.”
When the Palestinians moved the car with a tractor, he says, the conflict escalated. “We were being hit by rocks from every direction. They caught one Palestinian and began hitting him with clubs and rocks.”
The investigator and two Palestinians who were present also described being pepper-sprayed, and a gun being fired by one of the settlers. “I was afraid we would die,” says one of the Palestinians, a 30-year-old man. “The High Court said we could go there, so we did. Let the honorable court come with us to Homesh and see what happens when you go there.”
The investigator noted that the settlers kept throwing rocks at the Palestinians after they got into their cars, chasing them. The windows of three cars were smashed. According to the investigator, before entering Homesh, one of the Palestinians called and notified the Israeli coordination and liaison administration that they were going to the site. "I thought it would end with fatalities," he said.
- Israel must deal with settler violence sooner rather than later
- In five years, four new settler farms took Palestinian land the size of a big town
- Nearly two dozen cars vandalized in Ramallah area in anti-Palestinian hate crime
Israeli military and police forces arrived after the incident ended.
The head of the so-called Homesh Yeshiva, Shmuel Wendy, insists that the Palestinians began the assault. “While the yeshiva students were busy studying Torah, five Palestinian vehicles came towards them,” he said in a statement circulated by the regional council.
“Meanwhile a student outside the yeshiva tried to enter, but encountered the Palestinians," the statement read. "He called for help, and the boys in the yeshiva came to his aid. The Palestinians exited their cars, assaulted the students, threw rocks and tried to hit them with clubs. The students contacted the security forces and held off the assailants.”
The High Court reprimanded the police and IDF in October for not enforcing the ban on Israelis entering Homesh and not ensuring that Palestinians could reach their lands there.
In response to a petition filed in 2019 by Yesh Din on behalf of 13 residents of Burka, Supreme Court President Esther Hayut said that the Palestinians have the right to access and cultivate their lands, that the state does not provide them sufficient protection, and that actors “who shouldn’t be in the area but are – cause disruptions.” Justice Uzi Fogelman added that the continued non-enforcement of the law at Homesh may lead to “renouncement of government authority.”
The plaintiffs seek a court order that would force Israel to enforce legislation barring Israeli citizens from Homesh.
In response to the incident, the IDF Spokesperson's Unit said that forces were dispatched in response to reports of clashes including mutual rock throwing and live fire by a settler. "The clashes were dispersed," it said.
Meanwhile, the Jerusalem District of the State’s Prosecutor indicted a minor from the settlement of Yitzhar on Monday, for a racially motivated assault of another minor in Hebron.
According to the indictment, a 16 year-old from Yitzhar went to the Tomb of the Patriarchs with a group to observe the Chayei Sarah Sabbath, and was sprayed with tear gas by a Palestinian who was then shoved by another Israeli. The Palestinian was evacuated to a hospital following the incident, and the Yitzhar minor is under house arrest, with the prosecutor requesting custody until verdict.
During the Chayei Sarah Sabbath the portion of the Torah describing Abraham’s purchase of the cave in Hebron is read. It is attended by thousands every year and there are often reports of attacks against Palestinians and security forces.