West Bank: Armed Israeli settlers attack, injure Masafer Yatta Palestinian villagers amid Gaza onslaught

West Bank: Armed Israeli settlers attack, injure Masafer Yatta Palestinian villagers amid Gaza onslaught
The attack comes amid severely heightened violence and tensions in the West Bank, amid the Israel-Hamas war. 
5 min read
13 October, 2023
Earlier this week, the Palestinian foreign minister warned against arming Israeli settlers, calling it "giving a free hand to terrorist settler elements to commit more crimes against Palestinians". [GETTY]

In a disturbing escalation of Israeli settler violence, men from the Havat Ma'on settlement shot an unarmed Palestinian, Zakarya Adra, in the stomach on Friday, leaving him fighting for his life at a Yatta hospital in the southern West Bank amid Israel's onslaught in Gaza on the other side of historic Palestine.

Adra, 28, was shot in the stomach and is still in the operating room in a Yatta hospital, southern West Bank, at the time of writing. 
It was the second gun attack in two days by settlers from the Havat Ma'on settlement on the village of At-Tuwani in Masafer Yatta, South Hebron. The first attack by four people took place on Thursday (October 12).

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In footage shared by Mohammad Hureini - part of a large family committed to peaceful, nonviolent resistance against the occupation - the settlers can be seen approaching in military uniforms with rifles yesterday.

As they approach the village of At-Tuwani there is shouting between the residents and the attackers - before the video cuts to show the Israeli group opening fire on the Palestinians. 

Another graphic video from (Friday 13 October) shows an attacker in a red t-shirt approaching a group of unarmed Palestinians, before he shoots Zakarya.

Graphic video of Mohammad's cousin, Zakarya Adra, being shot today

Mohammad said that on Thursday four settlers were "destroying our family garden and broke our trees" before they began to "kick us from our land". Two were in military uniform, while two were masked and in ordinary clothes. 

"We didn't know where to go because we were on our land. They started to shoot bullets scarily and directly, the intent to kill was clear on their faces."

Hafez Hureini, Mohammad's uncle, was assaulted by the attackers, who injured his right arm. Hafez is the founder of Youth of Sumud - a youth-oriented Palestinian civil rights group dedicated to peaceful acts of resistance against occupation.

After the attack, footage showed Hafez entering his home grunting in pain, before being tended to with large bandages by paramedics.

Mohammad said no one got hurt yesterday - but today, the attackers "fulfilled their desire and shot my cousin". He added: "He is still in the hospital, we are waiting for news about him there. We don't know what to do; just pray for him."

The attack yesterday on the village of At-Tuwani

He said that in the West Bank, some aggressors are "taking advantage of the world's focus on what is happening in Gaza of crimes against humanity to scare people and steal more lands". 

The New Arab have reached out to an Israeli army spokesperson for clarification that those in military uniform were not part of the authorities but have not yet received a response.

Situated a stone's throw from At-Tuwani, the Havat Ma'on settlement is home to a group of known extremist settlers who have been behind previous attacks on residents in At-Tuwani - including one in which they broke both of Hafez's arms last September. 

The attack comes amid severely heightened violence and tensions in the West Bank, amid the Israel-Hamas war

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On Thursday, a Palestinian man and his son were killed while attending a funeral procession - the procession for four other Palestinians killed by settlers the day before.

Days before the gun attack Israeli forces bulldozed much of the Palestinian agricultural land near the village of At-Tuwani, including that belonging to the Hureini family under international law.

A video shows Hafez Hureini arguing with Israeli authorities, while a tractor tears up land in the background, a couple of days before the latest attack.

Mohammad Hureini - the namesake and cousin of the first Mohammad Hureini quoted in this article - said on Saturday following the outbreak of war: "We really don't feel that we are safe right now. 

"The army is going crazy and we are really afraid that they will kill somebody."

Civilians in Masafer Yatta, a collection of villages in South Hebron, have lived under threat of forced eviction since May 2022 - when the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the government could lawfully evict Palestinians from their homes to make way for military "Firing Zone 918". 

The UN has explicitly labelled the forced eviction of Palestinians from Masafer Yatta a "war crime" and a "gross violation" of human rights. A by-product of the court ruling has been increased aggression from extremist settlers and the Israeli authorities.

The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that since July 2023, thirteen Palestinian families - comprising 44 children and 40 adults - have been displaced from Masafer Yatta. This amounts to around 7% of the area's population.

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This follows consistent demolition orders in the past 18 months, including on the four schools and four health clinics in the area. 

Youth of Sumud, the nonviolent activism group founded by Hafez, aims to protect Palestinian life in Masafer Yatta. This includes walking young children to school to protect them from harassment and helping local farmers harvest olives in the face of attacks on their crops.

It fights against forced displacement of Palestinians by restoring caves, encouraging Palestinians to return and live on their former land peacefully. 

Israel is distributing weapons among settlers in the West Bank, including automatic assault rifles.