How Hawara became the latest battleground between Israeli settlers and Palestinian peaceful resistance

How Hawara became the latest battleground between Israeli settlers and Palestinian peaceful resistance
On Sunday night settlers from the illegal Israeli outposts of Har Bracha and Yitzhar stormed Hawara village in the West Bank, burning cars and houses and attacking locals while the Israeli army reportedly stood by.
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Dozens of Palestinian homes and vehicles have been torched by settlers [Nasser Ishtayeh/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty]

On Sunday night, the residents of Hawara, south of Nablus in the northern West Bank endured a night of terror as hundreds of settlers stormed the village, carrying out violent attacks and arson against people and property, all the while protected by the Israeli army.

The barrage of attacks seemed to be an attempt to placate the settlers after a shooting in which two settlers were killed. After the assault, the settlers triumphantly withdrew to the previously evacuated illegal outpost Evyatar, on Mount Sabih in lands belonging to neighbouring Beita village.

The settlers who carried out the attacks were from Har Bracha (where the settlers who were killed lived) and Yitzhar, where the violent and fanatical settler organisation known as the Hilltop Youth has a powerful following.

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Both settlements are built on lands belonging to Hawara and its neighbouring villages, which also suffered attacks on Sunday night; the settler violence lead to over 300 injuries, according to Ghassan Douglas, a Palestinian official who monitors Israeli settlements in the Nablus region.

Kamal Odeh, secretary of Fatah in Hawara said to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister edition: "The settler's gang leaders decided to erase Hawara from the map and if it were not for the reckless courage of the citizens in standing up to the attacks with only their bare hands and what rocks they could grab hold of, then we would have been looking at a massacre."

Odeh says that at sunrise, a quick survey of the village revealed the horrific extent of the settlers' assault and says the settlers are still positioned on the intersections of the main roads which lead into Hawara, and residents fear the attacks could recommence any moment.

Odeh claimed that the Israeli army is acting as a partner in these attacks by issuing a military order closing shops on the main road for three days and declaring the entire village a "closed military zone", while settlers were permitted to move freely around the village.

Hawara resident Ahmad Odeh described the events that took place in Hawara as a "pogrom".

"We feared a repeat of what happened to [members of] the Dawabsheh family in 2015, who were burned to death in their home in an arson attack in Duma village, south of Nablus," he said, adding that there were three children, the youngest of which was 4 months, with their mother in one of the houses which was set on fire, but a neighbour of theirs had managed to enter the house and helped them get out.

Israeli military forces on Sunday prevented Palestinians wanting to put out blazes in Hawara from entering and stopped ambulances from entering the village to take the wounded to hospitals.

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The last two decades have seen Hawara village, home to around 7,000 Palestinians, become a commercial hub for the 130,000 Palestinians living in villages south of Nablus.

This transformation arose when Israel set up the Hawara military checkpoint on a road leading into Nablus, effectively cutting the city off from neighbouring villages.

The checkpoint prevents residents of villages south of Nablus from reaching Nablus city for shopping and other essential services but has resulted in Hawara flourishing with many companies, factories, and banks setting up shop there.

Hawara also lies on the main road which connects the northern West Bank districts with Ramallah and is practically the only way for Palestinians to travel between them.

If the road is closed by Israeli forces, it will cut the north of the West Bank off from the central and southern districts a reality many activists and officials have warned about. Settlers from outposts around Nablus also use this road and have targeted Hawara for around a year, protected by the Israeli military.

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Hawara has also been the site of the "battle of the flags", which has seen Palestinians raise the Palestinian flag on the main road and settlers replace it with the Israeli one, and back and forth. Palestinians and their properties are regularly targeted in the settler raids.

In recent years, Israel has confiscated over 400 dunams from Hawara, Beita, and Awarta villages to make way for a huge bypass road that will be used by the Israeli military and settlers.

Israel claims it will reduce tensions in the occupied territories, but many Palestinians see the road as one of the most dangerous aspects of the settlement project in the West Bank as it will strengthen the settlements in the southern Nablus region.

They also believe it will transform these settlements from isolated outposts into de facto towns deep in the West Bank, simultaneously ending any prospect of a geographically contiguous Palestinian state.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition. To read the original article click here.