Israeli settlers attack father and child as violence against Palestinians escalates
Raed al-Kharraz was beaten, receiving “fractures to the head that resulted in severe internal bleeding, in addition to fractures on the face and teeth”.
His 10-year old son Muhammad wasn’t spared either: “His face was mutilated and his neck and body were covered in bruises, and he still suffers from terror and anxiety after the incident.”
Samir al-Kharraz, a relative of Raed's, is recounting what happened to the 44-year-old Nablus resident and his son after a vicious settler attack on their vehicle on Wednesday evening near the village of al-Mughayyer, northeast of Ramallah.
According to anti-settlement activists who spoke to Middle East Eye, the assault - one of the worst to have been carried out by settlers in the occupied West Bank in the last month - was premeditated, with Palestinian residents deliberately targeted.
The attack was one of five to have been carried out by settlers in less than 24 hours, in Nablus, Ramallah, Hebron and their neighbouring villages.
The violence has varied in intensity, from blocking off roads, stoning vehicles and setting them on fire, to spraypainting anti-Arab slogans and attacking people in their homes, as in the cases of Burqa village in Nablus and al-Mughayyer in Ramallah.
Settlers have carried out their attacks on bypass roads, intersections and near settlement entrances.
The escalation follows the recent death of an Israeli soldier at the hands of Palestinian Fadi Abu Shkheidem, who opened fire on Israelis in Jerusalem.
'I saw my father’s face covered in blood'
Ten-year old Muhammad told MEE that he and his father, who sells car accessories, had been driving to Bethlehem in the southern West Bank, on the main Nablus-Jericho road near al-Mughayyer, known by Israelis as Allon Road, when they were attacked.
'Then others came, some of them were Israeli soldiers, and they started cutting the window to get my father out'
- Muhammad, 10-year old Palestinian
A car filled with settlers had raced towards them, its occupants throwing a “large piece of metal” at their vehicle, hitting the windshield and shattering the glass.
Struggling to speak, Muhammad said: “The glass exploded in our faces, my father lost control of the car and it veered off the street and flipped. I didn’t know what was happening, and thought I was dreaming.
"I looked at my father, who mumbled a few words before passing out. I saw his face covered in blood, and I started crying and screaming, until a Palestinian came and pulled me out.”
Muhammad, who is now being treated at the H-Clinic in Ramallah, continued: “Then others came, some of them were Israeli soldiers, and they started cutting the window to get my father out.”
Raed was then transported via Israeli military helicopter to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.
'Dangerous and vicious'
The attack is the second the Kharraz family has suffered this month, according to Amin Abu Alia, head of the local village council in al-Mughayyer.
On 6 November, at around the same time of day as the first attack, Abu Alia said settlers from neighbouring settlement outposts ambushed Palestinian vehicles and pelted them with stones and sharp metal objects.
According to Ghassan Daghlas, the Palestinian Authority official responsible for the issue of settlement building in the northern West Bank, Wednesday’s attack against the Kharraz family is the second “most dangerous and vicious” recent attack of its kind.
The first, Daghlas told MEE, was an attack in Burqa, north of Nablus, a little more than a week ago, when dozens of settlers from the nearby Khomesh settlement assaulted farmers on their lands.
Daghlas adds: “It was the 13th attack on the village this month, and included heavy gunfire to terrorise the [Palestinian] citizens.”
The official said that 29 Palestinians have been injured as a result of dozens of settler attacks throughout the West Bank in the last 10 days, in addition to other attacks, such as the destruction and arson of Palestinian vehicles and crops.
Emptying the lands
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has expressed its alarm at the rise in settler violence, reporting that there has been 410 attacks by settlers against Palestinians in the first 10 months of this year.
The attacks include 108 incidents that led to the injury of Palestinians and 302 incidents that led to the destruction of property.
Daghlas compares the current settler violence to the operation of Zionist militias like Haganah, Stern Gang and the Irgun before the Nakba of 1948.
The Nakba, or "catastrophe", refers to the expulsion of 700,000 Palestinians around the time of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, to make way for the creation of the state of Israel.
"Today, settler groups go about carrying different names, such as 'Making them Pay,' 'Kahane Chai' (Meir Kahane Lives) and 'Hilltop Youth'," said Daghlas.
"[These groups work to] impose facts on the ground in order to establish their existence on the land at the expense of the Palestinian people.
"The danger of the settler gangs is in their desire to carry out revenge attacks, and their deliberate harming of Palestinians with the objective of emptying the lands of its inhabitants.”
'Violence is organised and coordinated'
Issa Amro, founder of the Youth Against Settlements organisation in Hebron, in the southern West Bank, agrees with Daghlas’s assessment that the settler attacks are part of larger plans to annex the West Bank to Israel by imposing “facts on the ground”.
Data from Israeli NGOs indicates that there are currently approximately 666,000 Israeli settlers across 145 settlements and non-licensed 140 outposts in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Amro said the settler violence complements policies of the occupation and the Israeli government, including the demolition of homes and the expulsion of farmers from their lands.
“This violence is organised and coordinated between the government and the settlers,” he told MEE.
Amro says the rate of attacks has increased by 100 percent in the last year, and that many attacks have been carried out against people and their properties in Hebron.
He describes the attacks as acts of “forcible expulsion”, making Palestinians feel unsafe and creating "an environment that is unlivable and which forces them to leave”.
This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.