Israeli settlers attack Palestinian village of Burqa 'almost daily' since return to illegal outpost

Israeli settlers attack Palestinian village of Burqa 'almost daily' since return to illegal outpost
5 min read
West Bank
01 June, 2023
"Settler attacks have become almost daily in Burqa, and they happen very quickly," Abu Omar described.
Israeli settlers have been escalating violent attacks on Palestinian villages in the West Bank, including burning houses, since the beginning of the year. [Qassam Muaddi/TNA]

Israeli settlers attacked on Wednesday the Palestinian village of Burqa, located northeast of Nablus, for the fourth time in a week, damaging a car and a house, and then setting fire to a hill containing Burqa's cemetery, east of the village.

During the attack, Israeli forces accompanied the settlers and shot three Palestinians with rubber bullets. Forty other Palestinian residents were treated for tear gas asphyxiation, which was released by the Israeli army to dispute the resident's attempts to confront the settlers, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.

Attacks by Israeli settlers is on the rise since their return to the illegal outpost of Homesh, which sits on the top of the eastern hill of Burqa, and was evacuated in 2005. Earlier this weeks, settlers returning to the illegal outpost built a Jewish religious school.

Homesh was evacuated in 2005 as part of then-Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon's 'disengagement plan', in which Israel withdrew its troops and around 5,000 settlers from the Gaza Strip.

"Since the so-called 'disengagement plan', we, residents of Burqa, were never able to return to our lands that had been expropriated when the outpost was built around forty years ago," Shadi Abu Omar, activist and resident of Burqa, told The New Arab.

"Every time we tried to go back to work work our lands there, the occupation army denied us access, despite the Israeli supreme court issuing four rulings in our favour, recognising our right to the land," noted Abu Omar. "At one time, the occupation army officer told us that he and the army made the law here, not the Israeli supreme court."

Last Thursday, Israeli settlers from the Homesh outpost attacked Burqa and set fire to a livestock barrack, and threw stones at Palestinians homes.

"Settler attacks have become almost daily in Burqa, and they happen very quickly," Abu Omar described. "At any moment, a car comes down from the Homesh outpost, and then three or four settlers come out of the car and throw rocks at a house or damage some property, then leave."

"Only big attacks, involving dozens of settlers, like yesterday, make it to the media headlines," he added. "The attack happened while I was giving a tour to German and French journalists, and it was my car and a family's home, in addition to part of the cemetery that the settlers damaged."

The building of the Jewish religious school at the Homesh outpost, on Thursday, came a week after the Israeli army commander of the region revoked the military order preventing the return of Israeli settlers to the location. The military order came two months after a Knesset legislation allowing the move.

In March, the Israeli Knesset passed a law that rolled back the 2005 'disengagement plan' legislation which banned Israeli settlers from Homesh and three other illegal outposts in the northern occupied West Bank. The bill was supported and lobbied for by the current finance minister Bezalel Smotrich.

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A month earlier, in February, Netanyahu's government agreed to grant Smotrich's ministry authority over civil affairs in the occupied West Bank. Previously, that had been under the authority of the Israeli army since the West Bank’s occupation by Israel began in 1967.

Smotrich's new powers over the occupied West Bank allows him to further advance illegal settlements, including the legalization of outposts deemed previously illegal by Israeli law, like Homesh.

Under international law, all Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, including large settlement blocs built by the state are illegal, because they are in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which bans any transfer of a civilian population by an occupying power to occupied territory.

In early May, Smotrich admitted during a public event that settlements and demolition of Palestinian structures in 'Area C' was ‘not a matter of legality (...) but rather about preventing Palestinian geographical continuity", replacing it with Israeli settlements "from Nablus, to Ramallah, to Bethlehem to Hebron".

His remarks were made while elaborating on demolition plans of the Palestinian Khan Al-Ahmar community that live between Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley.

The US and the European Union slammed both the Knesset legislation and the military order that allows settlers back to Burqa's lands.

The US State Department considered the move "inconsistent with both former prime minister Sharon's written commitment to the Bush administration in 2004 and the current Israeli government's commitments to the Biden administration".

The EU condemned the settlers' return to Homesh, and called on Israel to "reverse this action", considering that it goes "against efforts to lower tensions on the ground".

Israeli settlers' violence has increased in the occupied West Bank since February, especially in the Nablus' countryside and suburban areas. The largest settler attack took place in late February on the Palestinian town of Hawara, south of Nablus, where settlers torched 30 Palestinian houses and 90 cars, killed one Palestinian and wounded dozens of other residents.