Israeli settlers forcibly evict and steal homes of last two Palestinian families from ‘Ein Samia in the West Bank

Israeli settlers
6 min read
13 June, 2024

For 50 years, Khaled and Nasser Ghneimat have known no other home but the village of ‘Ein Samia — a quiet, sleepy area of farmland in the central occupied West Bank once home to about 200 Palestinian residents. 

So, when Israeli settlers kept harassing, pressuring and threatening them, day in and day out for months, they held on tight to their home, even as they saw other families being shoved out of their properties. 

But in mid-May, the two brothers — Khaled who is 48 and Nasser who is 50 years old — became the last two of the 38 Palestinian families in ‘Ein Samia who were forcibly removed from their homes, with their displacement marking the end of Palestinian presence in the village.

"When we returned, we found the settlers had taken over our houses and everything inside"

On May 13, the two returned home after a long day with their flock to find their residence invaded, their families expelled, and a settler outpost established right across from their homes.

“We didn't leave; our homes were occupied," Khaled Ghneimat, the head of a family of nine, tells The New Arab. "We were with the sheep in the pastures, and when we returned, we found the settlers had taken over our houses and everything inside."

In the days leading up to their displacement, settlers had managed to seize five of his and his brother's sheep, but the two brothers chose not to resist fearing retaliation.

The persecution however, did not stop. Israeli settlers prevented them on several occasions from accessing pastures, stole solar panels from their homes, and obstructed their access to water sources, Khaled reveals. 

“All the families were forced to leave and we were the last ones remaining," Khaled continues. "They’ve attacked and terrorised us for weeks. I sustained a broken rib ten days ago. These vengeful actions of the settlers are the new Nakba.” 

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History of abuse

According to B’Tsleem, a Jerusalem-based non-profit watchdog, even before the recent incident, the families of ‘Ein Samia endured years of incursions involving intimidation from Israeli forces, state-backed settler violence, severe restrictions on building homes and infrastructure, and several demolitions that did not spare even the community’s school, which is slated for demolition as well following recent court approval.

"Ein Samia residents say they have been intimidated by Israeli settlers for years, but efforts to hound them out of their homes intensified during the second half of 2023, worsening further after October 7"

These conditions exacerbated the humanitarian situation of an already vulnerable Bedouin community, whose members lived in poverty, residing in tin houses and tents, and relying only on agriculture and sheep herding to sustain their livelihoods.

Ein Samia residents say they have been intimidated by Israeli settlers for years, but efforts to hound them out of their homes intensified during the second half of 2023, worsening further after October 7.

“Things have changed since October 7–the settler has become the enforcer of law, the police, and the military," said Khaled.

According to United Nations data, settler violence across the West Bank has been increasing in recent years.

On average, there were three settler-related incidents per day in the first eight months of 2023, compared to two per day in 2022 and one per day in 2021. The number has risen to seven incidents per day in the months after October 7.

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Since the outbreak of war in Gaza, the Israeli military operations in the West Bank resulted in the deaths of over 500 Palestinians, injuries to around 5,000, and the arrests of approximately 8,800 individuals.

The two families had to gather as many sheep as they could, leave their homes, and move to live near the town of Kafr Malik, an area without grazing lands.

"Our lives have been turned upside down. If things continue as they are, we will have to sell the flock,” Khaled explains. “Relying on livestock feed is too costly and impractical." 

Since Israel's occupation of the West Bank in 1967, over 200,000 hectares of land have been appropriated for various uses, including the establishment and expansion of settlements, agricultural and industrial development, and infrastructure projects that primarily benefit the settler population.

These appropriations have severely restricted Palestinian access to vast areas of land, affecting Bedouins who live off grazing their cattle.

Despite the international community consistently recognising that settlements contravene international law and perpetuate a range of violations of Palestinian human rights — including discriminatory policies based on nationality, ethnicity, and religion — land continues to get seized and confiscated by Israel, either through military orders, declaring areas as "state land," "firing zones," or "nature reserves," and directly expropriating land.

Settlers have also effectively seized control of vast swaths of land through daily acts of violence and intimidation against Palestinians.

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Eyes on Gaza 

According to Amir Dawood, a documentation official with the Wall and Settlement Resistance Commission (WSRC), “Settlers, with military support, took advantage of the global focus on the war in Gaza to implement a settlement plan aimed at seizing large areas of the eastern slopes of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley.” 

He added that Israel achieved a strategic goal on October 7, by displacing Bedouin residents from most of the eastern slopes of the West Bank, which are highly strategic due to their overlooking the Jordan Valley.

“Israel is pursuing its old plan to annex the Jordan Valley — a plan previously halted by international pressure, but now being executed quietly, away from media and official announcements,” he explained.

“If the settlers are left to ravage unchecked, larger villages will become their next targets”

According to the commission, since October 7, actions by the Israeli military and settlers have led to the displacement of 25 Palestinian Bedouin communities, comprising 220 families and 1,277 individuals.

"It’s not just my house. ‘Ein Samia means much more to me. I was born and raised there; it was an important agricultural spot and a tourist refuge for the residents of Kafr Malik and the surrounding villages," Khaled says.

“If the settlers are left to ravage unchecked, larger villages will become their next targets.”

His brother Nasser, 55, also displaced with his seven children, recounted similar experiences of continuous pressure and threats. 

"The settlers invaded our homes, vineyards, orange groves, and thyme fields with their sheep and cattle, destroying everything," he said.

“We brought these violations to Israeli police and military several times to no avail,” he added, stressing their attempts to pursue peaceful means of seeking justice. 

"We filed several complaints many times about the settlers, but they asked us to endure without taking any considerable actions.”

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The Ghneimats recalled how their families' final days in ‘Ein Samia were difficult, with sleepless nights and constant vigilance, fearing attacks by settlers. 

Between October 2023 and May 2024, the UN documented 800 settler attacks on Palestinians, resulting in 31 incidents of casualties, and damage to 12,530 Palestinian properties.

"After October 7, the settlers were given free rein to launch attacks on everything. We lost the pastures, our sole source of livelihood,” said the older brother. 

The Ghneimats now reside in tents donated by the WSRC, while their flock roams in the open.

"We sought nothing but a dignified life free from fear, but even that was taken away from us," Nasser concludes. 

Issam Ahmed is a Ramallah-based independent journalist focusing on security and human rights issues

This article is written in collaboration with Egab