On the morning of October 12, the men of Wadi al-Siq were demolishing their family homes when a group of heavily armed Israelis from nearby illegal settlements – along with army reservists – stormed the village.
Their wives and most of their children had left the village the day before, driving some sheep from the Palestinian Bedouin village before them. They were all scared.
Two days earlier, Israeli peace activist Guy Hirschfeld had warned on Facebook about an alleged call for a massacre at the Wadi al-Siq community. So the village, led by their mukhtar, Abdelrahman “Abu Bashar” Kaabneh, decided to leave.
Translation: Final preparations for pogrom and deportation in Wadi Sik near the settlement of Rimonim. Please call the Benjamin Police and request that troops be sent. 02-9706444Stop ethnic cleansing!
According to human rights organizations, Wadi al-Siq is among Palestinian Bedouin villages in the occupied West Bank being forcibly displaced in a flood that has increased over the past two weeks.
Heavily armed Israelis from illegal settlements attack these communities daily – concentrated, organized attacks that are unhindered and sometimes supported by security forces, according to witnesses and human rights organizations.
Although this has been happening for years, it has increased in intensity and frequency as the world looks away and focuses on the horror of the Israel-Gaza war that began on October 7th.
“It’s everywhere in the West Bank,” said Hirschfeld, who has been to the area four or five times since the war began. “[The settlers are] take advantage of the situation and do whatever they want.”
Leave today or live and die this way
A north-south stretch of 20 km (12.4 miles) east of Ramallah is currently being cleared of almost all Palestinians, highlighting the already tense security situation for Bedouins in these remote areas.
According to the West Bank Protection Consortium (WBPC) and the Israeli human rights organization, some 545 Palestinians from at least 13 communities have been forcibly displaced since October 7 in Area C – a part of the occupied West Bank that is under Israeli security and civilian control – Yesh Din.
Under the Oslo Accords signed by Israel and the PLO in 1993, the country is nominally slated for negotiation in future talks.
The violence extends across Area C, including the southern Hebron Hills, the area east of Ramallah towards Jericho, the Jordan Valley and Nablus.
Witnesses and humanitarian coordinators say more and more communities have abandoned their villages or begun to demolish their villages and move towards B, rather than suffer the same fate as Wadi al-Siq, the first village since October 7 was completely depopulated by settlers.
Armed settlers, almost all armed with weapons, are carrying out violent raids while Israeli law enforcement appears content to look the other way, villagers and human rights organizations told Al Jazeera.
Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has done so I handed out more weapons to well-armed Israeli settlers since the outbreak of hostilities on October 7th.
‘We have nothing’
Wadi al-Siq, a village of 187 Bedouins – whose houses are little more than huts on hard rocky ground – lies in the barren mountains east of Ramallah that have been populated by Palestinian herders for decades.
Nearby Ein Samiya was the first to be completely displaced by settler violence earlier this year and, along with the recently displaced villages of al-Baqa and Ras al-Tin, represented a frightening vision of the future for Wadi al-Siq.
Some families had left Wadi al-Siq earlier this year to seek protection from settler attacks on them, their property and even their school. But since the outbreak of war, the situation worsened dramatically, and villagers reported being terrorized daily by nearby settlers.
The villagers of Wadi al-Siq had already gathered their belongings to leave [Al Jazeera]
On that fateful October day, the armed settlers and reservists fired a shot into the air and told the villagers that in an hour they would kill any Bedouins still nearby.
“They entered the houses and prevented us from taking anything,” Abu Bashar said, adding that they dragged out and beat any Bedouins they found.
“They told us, ‘If any of you are in this area in an hour, you will be killed,’” he said.
The villagers ran and fled with little but the clothes they wore. According to Abu Bashar, about 30 villagers were injured either in the attack or while fleeing to nearby mountains.
“We don’t have any food. No water. No power. Nowhere to sleep. We have nothing,” Abu Bashar said on the phone, the harsh wind blowing in the background.
Since being displaced, villagers have reported seeing settlers looting their former homes. With nothing left to live on, many villagers begged, Abu Bashar said.
“What is happening to us is exactly what happened to our ancestors in 1948, who were forced to leave with nothing,” Abu Bashar said, referring to the Nakba of 1948 when most Palestinians were expelled from their homeland became.
The villagers of Wadi al-Siq are calling for urgent international assistance to create at least a two-hour humanitarian corridor so they can collect their belongings.
A Bedouin boy waves a Palestinian flag in al-Khan al-Ahmar in the occupied West Bank [File: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters]
But given the chaos in the region, their calls are going unheeded, according to Abu Bashar and humanitarian organizations.
“No protection at all”
Panic is growing among Palestinian Bedouin communities.
Their area, now virtually devoid of Palestinians, had in recent years received donations and support from EU missions that viewed Bedouin communities as an integral part of the neighborhood of a future Palestinian state.
But now the pattern seen in Wadi al-Siq – the closure of access roads, followed by concentrated attacks and forced displacement – is also taking place elsewhere in Zone C, where the population of 300,000 outnumbers the 400,000 heavily armed Israeli settlers.
Since the outbreak of war, Bedouin communities throughout Area C have been left with virtually no protection, with even the activists who monitored and supported them cut off.
In Wadi al-Siq, three Palestinian volunteers from the Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission who were monitoring the situation were beaten so badly by settlers that they had to be hospitalized, witnesses and a commission representative said.
Israeli activists at the scene were also beaten and detained. “All leftists are traitors,” said one of the Israeli settlers in military fatigues during the attack, which was overheard by one of the activists. “I think we have to kill them all.”
The armed Israelis took everyone’s phones and deleted all videos and photos of the attack.
With checkpoints closed and roads too dangerous to pass, foreign missions and humanitarian organizations have been unable to reach Zone C villages.
“They have no protection at all,” said Dror Sadot, spokesman for the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. “Of course the settlers know that.”
Calls for “elimination” and “expulsion” are becoming increasingly common in settler chat groups, fueled by rhetoric from political leaders like Ben-Gvir who applaud violence against Palestinians.
“The roads … are closed to the movement of the Arab enemy, there will be no olive picking in the area and no enemy can come near you,” said a post in a settlers chat group instructing settlers , to remain at least 100 bullets and full cartridges and to “liquidate/wipe out” any approaching Palestinians.
The gradual encirclement of Bedouin villages by settler outposts in recent years has made travel between villages almost impossible.
“The army has a strong hand on the trigger – a pedestrian or vehicle entering the road will die instantly!” said a post in a settler chat group. “And that is how it is supposed to be.”
No visible measures are being taken to address the increasing threat of violence by the Israeli authorities.
Abu Bashar said about 30 villagers were injured either in the attack or while fleeing to the mountains [Al Jazeera]
“Everyone knows what their agenda is. They know who they are. You could stop it. As far as we know, that’s not happening,” said Allegra Pacheco, WBPC party leader.
The Israeli army did not respond to requests for comment.
“No Palestinian people”
Reports of attacks and deaths by soldiers and settlers are increasing at levels not seen in years. Reuters confirms that at least 64 Palestinians have been killed in the occupied West Bank since October 7.
A video recently emerged showing a settler entering the village of al-Tawani in the southern Hebron Hills, approaching a Palestinian and shooting him at close range as Israeli soldiers looked on.
In Sair al-Ganoub, three families were displaced when their homes were burned by settlers.
“I received calls from more than 20 communities giving me the same message: We are afraid that the settlers will come and massacre us,” said a humanitarian coordinator in Area C, who requested anonymity due to employer regulations.
According to Yesh Din and the WBPC, a partnership of European states and NGOs working to prevent the forcible relocation of Palestinians, there are reports of Bedouins being forced to flee their communities under threat of violence throughout Area C.
Documentary: A settler shot a Palestinian at close range in the village of A-Tuwani in the southern Hebron Hills pic.twitter.com/Pu72XJATlJ
— B’Tselem בצלם بتسيلم (@btselem) October 13, 2023
In the communities of Ein al-Rashash and Mughayar al-Deir, which lie along the same corridor as Wadi al-Siq and formerly Ein Samiya, Ras al-Tin and al-Baqa, villagers were warned by security forces from the nearby settlements of Rimonim and Ma’ ale Michmash that they should leave before they are killed.
An al-Rashash has now been completely disbanded, most residents of the Mu’arrajat center have left the center and Bedouin families from eastern Taybe have moved closer to Area B.
Mughayar al-Deir is the only remaining Palestinian community in the entire area and forced relocations are expected there too.
According to Yesh Din, families have also fled under duress from other areas, including Khirbat al-Radhim, al-Farsia, al-Nusira and Ain al-Shibli.
“With the expulsion of all these communities, the entire area around Jericho and east of Ramallah will be empty of any Palestinian people. It will be… a huge area for the settlers and their expansion,” the humanitarian coordinator said. “It’s a quiet annexation.”
“Settler violence cannot be separated from state violence. It is an unofficial arm of the state taking over Palestinian land,” B’Tselem’s Sadot said.
“That was their plan before, and that’s the plan now. So of course they are taking advantage of the fact that no one is looking at them at this moment to take over Palestinian land en masse.”
Source : www.aljazeera.com