Palestinians Around Homesh Pay the Price for a Settler's Murder

Yehuda Dimentman's murder last month has intensified setters' revival efforts around the illegal Homesh outpost, and has led to a number of attacks against the local Palestinians

הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf
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Palestinian residents near Homesh outpost face increased settler attacks in the aftermath of a settler march.
Palestinian residents near Homesh outpost face increased settler attacks in the aftermath of a settler march.Credit: Amir Levy
הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf

For three weeks, all traffic from Nablus to Jenin has been funneled to a small, narrow, broken road. The reason for this is an IDF checkpoint erected near the settlement of Shavei Shomron on Route 60, the main road connecting the two districts, and is manned by soldiers 24 hours a day since the killing of Yehuda Dimentman near the settlement of Homesh last month.

According to Palestinians from nearby villages, driving the bypass road extends their travel by about 10 kilometers. “It’s crazy, all the traffic between the districts goes through our little town, they let the settlers pass but they block us,” said Mohammed Azem, mayor of Sebastia, through which the bypass runs. According to Azem, settlers threw rocks at cars driving along that road just two days before.

The soldiers at the checkpoint only allow passage to cars belonging to members of the illegal yeshiva erected at Homesh, a settlement evacuated as part of the 2005 disengagement but revived shortly afterwards by settlers who have been maintaining the yeshiva as an outpost ever since. The soldiers at the checkpoint admitted they are letting through cars “from the yeshiva,” or “the yeshiva settlers,” but couldn’t say how they distinguish the yeshiva settlers from other settlers. Our car, bearing a yellow Israeli license plate, was also allowed by the soldiers to pass toward Nablus, as they said, “You’re from the yeshiva, right?” without waiting for a reply. Cars bearing Palestinian plates were ordered to turn around.

This is not the only road blocked by the army. Immediately after Dimentman’s slaying, many other roads were blocked by dirt mounds. At the village council of Burqa, near Homesh, some of whose residents own the land on which the yeshiva sits, they counted 17 local roads blocked off by the army. “They closed the entrances to the village and we have already opened them up ourselves four times,” says Burqa council head Ziad a-Din Abu Ammar.

Two weeks ago, the day after the mass march from Shavei Shomron, attended by 10,000 far-right activists, the Burqa council cleared the dirt barrier placed between Burqa and Sebastia. Since then, this side road has remained open. In addition, the main entrances to both Burqa and Sebastia have been blocked by military jeeps on several occasions over the past few weeks: On the day of Dimentman’s funeral, the day of the mass march as the shiva ended, and again over the past two Saturdays.

During these Sabbaths, settlers tried to reach Homesh by car but were blocked by the army, and then went on by foot and were stopped near Sebastia. In each of these incidents, Burqa residents confronted IDF soldiers, with some throwing rocks and burning tires. The Palestinian Red Crescent reported 10 people injured from IDF live fire during these clashes, and dozens more from tear gas and rubber-coated bullets.

The residents of the Palestinian villages report that since the killing, violent attacks against them have increased. Ghaleb Haggi’s house in Burqa stands by the main road, and for many days a dirt barrier has been blocking the direct access road from the house to the center of the village. On the day of Dimentman’s funeral, at noon, settlers threw rocks at the house, breaking light fixtures and 20 windows. Security cameras documented the incident.

Haggi, a electrician who has been working in Israel for many years and speaks fluent Hebrew, told Haaretz that he filed a complaint at the Taybeh police station, where he was told that the complaint would be forwarded to the Ariel station, which is in charge of the area. But he says he has not heard from the police since. “They put the whole village in prison and let them free,” says Haggi. “I’m afraid at night. They tried to force the gate too. From 2005 they’re saying they’ll evacuate Homesh. Nobody is supposed to be above the law in Israel. This isn’t an Arab country.”

Two days later, settler-owned cars came by the house while laborers were working in the yard. One of them, Munir, told Haaretz that one settler was armed and fired in the air four times. “I ran from fear,” he said, adding that he lives in Burqa and that on the day of Dimentman’s funeral, settlers pelted his car with rocks. He says that after the murder, his wife and children went to stay with her parents in Jenin, for fear of settler reprisals.

Another resident had his corn stall destroyed and his warehouse vandalized. Another Burqa resident reported several dozen settlers who went down to the village cemetery and smashed tombstones. When residents came to chase the vandals off, the IDF sprayed them with tear gas and stun grenades.

“I choked from the gas and went to the hospital in Nablus. Since then, I haven’t felt well. The soldiers did nothing to stop the settlers. They destroyed the graves of my mother, father, nephew, grandfather and grandmother, and 20 other graves. Can you imagine if something like this happened in Israel?” said Mohammed Yassin of Burqa.

Another Border Police checkpoint currently stands at the entrance to Homesh, supposedly to prevent the entry of Israeli cars, but in practice has allowed cars associated with the yeshiva through. A small military base, consisting of trailers, has been set up on the hill the outpost occupies in order for IDF soldiers to provide the site with much tighter security than before the murder, but to also monitor any new construction. On Wednesday the Border Police removed some new tents erected by the settlers at Homesh. Light structures placed there prior were removed two weeks ago.

Last Monday, in response to reporters’ questions, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said it was decided not to allow new construction at Homesh “in addition to what exists.” In response to Haaretz’s follow-up, his office clarified that anything constructed after the killing will be torn down, and structures erected prior to the murder will not be removed in the meantime. The IDF spokesman said in response: “Recently some movement restrictions have been imposed in the space around the evacuated settlement of Homesh, this due to ongoing security assessments. Entry by Israelis and Palestinians into the space is allowed on a case by case basis, subject to need and ongoing security assessments. The use of crowd dispersal means was done following rocks thrown at IDF personnel.”

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