The rise in recent attacks involving cooperation between settlers and IDF soldiers seems to be a prelude to Israel’s efforts to formally annex the entire West Bank.
Settler violence — especially when directly supported by the Israeli military — erects “invisible walls” that pave the way for the annexation of Palestinian land. Indeed, such attacks often force Palestinians to abandon or neglect properties . . . . This abandoned land is then taken over by Israel, whence it then becomes “state land” that is then often given to the very settlements responsible for the initial attacks.
Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem has provided evidence showing Israeli soldiers joining settlers in a series of attacks targeting the Palestinian village of ‘Urif, near Nablus in the occupied West Bank. The village, home to around 3,600 Palestinians, has been a target of extremist settlers for years given its close proximity to the illegal settlement of Yitzhar, notorious even among the Israeli security establishment for its repeated attacks on Palestinians and arson of nearby Palestinian property. Such attacks have historically taken place on farmland bordering the village, as well as near the village’s water tower.
Yet, while the Israeli government has long dismissed Yitzhar attacks on Palestinians as the work of a handful of settler youth “activists,” B’Tselem has now revealed that many of these attacks are conducted along with the active participation of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers, resulting in IDF-settler “joint assaults” on Palestinian civilians that rob Palestinians of “not only their land but also their livelihood.”
B’Tselem detailed several different attacks that have taken place in recent months, in which settlers have exacted damage on Palestinian property, many with direct assistance from IDF soldiers. The first two that involved IDF-settler cooperation took place in March and early June.
In both cases, the incidents involved settlers launching attacks while they were being guarded and accompanied by IDF soldiers, some of whom then joined in the attacks. In the March incident, the accompanying soldiers killed one Palestinian and injured a 14-year-old boy, while another ‘Urif resident was injured in the separate incident that took place in early June.
However, since reporting on those attacks a few months ago, the human rights group has documented four more such attacks on the village of ‘Urif, two of which directly involved IDF soldiers who not only enabled settler violence but actively participated. The two incidents involving settler-IDF cooperation took place within a span of two days, on July 4 and July 6 of this year.