Are Israeli settlers dressing up as soldiers to kill Palestinians in the West Bank?

Are Israeli settlers dressing up as soldiers to kill Palestinians in the West Bank?
As settler violence in the West Bank continues to rage, Palestinians report a worrying new trend of Israeli settlers dressed as soldiers carrying out attacks.
3 min read
28 March, 2024
Settler attacks in the occupied West Bank have soared since 7 Ocober [Getty]

Eyewitness testimonies suggest a disturbing trend of illegal Israeli settlers disguising themselves as soldiers to attack Palestinians in rural areas of the West Bank.

On the afternoon of 19 March, 40-year-old farmer Fakher Bani Jaber from Khirbat al-Tawil, a small village in the northern occupied West Bank, was shot at point blank range by what appeared to be four soldiers. Local witnesses said the assailants were actually Israeli settlers.

While settler violence in the West Bank is not new, violence has exploded since 7 October, with Fakher Bani Jaber being the 24th Palestinian killed by Israeli settlers since then, according to a report by Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister edition.

A total of 434 Palestinians have been killed in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, during this period, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The relentless violence has drawn international condemnation, with Britain following the US in placing sanctions on a number of violent extremist settlers earlier this year.

Live Story

"[Imagine] seeing a settler transform in a matter of minutes into a soldier wearing the official uniform to kill you before returning to his usual state […] this is exactly what we are experiencing today in the Palestinian countryside. But the question is: Where are these settlers getting their weapons and military outfits?" said Aqraba municipality head Salah Jaber said. Aqraba is a village southeast of Nablus in the northern West Bank.

"The answer is simple and shows the close cooperation between the two sides against us." 

Locals who witnessed the crime stated that after Jaber's murder, his assailants fled toward a nearby settlement outpost.

Sixty-year-old farmer Samer Mohammed Khudr reported witnessing the entire incident, asserting he was certain the perpetrators were settlers. He recognised one of them—a long-bearded religious settler known for previous attacks on the inhabitants.

He added that the village is used to soldiers invading the area but that the soldiers "come in their military jeeps, not on foot as the four settlers did, likewise the regular soldiers don't run away when a clash with them has occurred. We can easily distinguish between the behaviours of the two parties".

Despite the villagers' certainty, ambiguity remains regarding the possibility that the settlers might belong to Israel's "regional defence battalions".

Since 7 October Israel has drafted thousands of settlers into what are termed "regional defense battalions", with Haaretz reporting in January that several thousand settlers were now serving in the Israeli army and stationed in the West Bank. The Israeli military said the move was necessary due to the redeployment of its regular forces from the West Bank to fight in Gaza or on the Lebanese border, which had left the settlements without their usual military protection.   

Additionally, Jerusalem-based journalist Jessica Buxbaum has pointed out that some settlers are currently serving as reservists in the Israeli army, having been called up since 7 October to fight in the ongoing assault. 

This article is based on an article by Samer Khawira which appeared in our Arabic edition on 27 March 2024. To read the original article click here.