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West Bank: Israeli arrest raid in Beita injures scores

Anti-settlement protests in Beita have been ongoing for four months, opposing the establishment of the Eviatar outpost on the village's lands
Palestinian protesters use lasers during a night-time demonstration against the Israeli settler outpost of Eviatar, in the northern occupied West Bank village of Beita on 8 August 2021 (AFP)

Israeli forces wounded at least 53 Palestinians and arrested six overnight on Sunday amid a crackdown on protesters in the northern occupied West Bank village of Beita who are denouncing the establishment of a new settlement outpost in the area, according to local media.

Night protests have been ongoing for months in the area, opposing the creation of the Eviatar outpost on Jabal Sabih, located between the Palestinian villages of Qabalan, Yatma, and Beita, south of Nablus.

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According to the deputy head of the Beita municipality, Moussa Hamayel, a large number of Israeli soldiers stormed the village at dawn on Monday and raided several houses, arresting six men identified as Osaid Mohammad Mualla, Zuhair Ahmad Bani Shamsa, Islam Hamid Yaaqoub, Abdulrahman Maali, Moatasem Miteb Dweikat, and Hamada Imad Hamayel.

According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, at least 53 Palestinians were treated following the raid, including four people hit on the head by tear gas canisters, while another 47 suffered from suffocation because of the tear gas. 

The crackdown comes two days after a Palestinian man, Imad Ali Dweikat, was shot dead by Israeli fire in Beita during a protest. 

Dweikat was the seventh Palestinian killed by Israeli fire in Beita since May when residents of the village started protesting on a nearly daily basis calling on Israel to dismantle Eviatar.

How the Beita unrest started

In early May, a group of Israeli settlers set up caravans on Jabal Sabih, and with the help of Israeli forces prevented any Palestinian access to the area, which is home to vast olive groves belonging to Beita’s residents.

Amid the political and media focus on the Israeli war on Gaza in May and the violent crackdown on Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem, settlers installed mobile houses, built roads, and raised an Israeli flag over Eviatar, prompting Palestinian protests against the takeover of this land. 

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Unlike Israeli government-approved settlements, hundreds of which exist in the West Bank in contravention of international law, settlement outposts like Eviatar are also illegal under Israeli law.

In July, Israel evacuated dozens of Jewish settlers from Eviatar after a deal was reached between a settler leader and the government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

According to the deal, Israel would keep about 50 caravan houses installed on Palestinian lands belonging to the residents of Beita, while Israeli authorities decide whether the lands can be designated as "state-owned" and allow settlers to return. 

Eviatar, meanwhile, would be turned into a religious school and a military base for the Israeli army.

Many Palestinians in the area do not believe that Israel will rule against the Eviatar outpost and so have staged "night confusion" rallies, using torches, lasers, and honking horns in an effort to push the settlers out.

Israel has occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem since the 1967 Middle East war, and exponentially expanded settlements on occupied lands in violation of international law.

An estimated 650,000 Israeli settlers currently live in the occupied territories, while Palestinians are pushed out of these areas.