Israeli settler violence has displaced more than 1,100 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank since 2022, a United Nations report released on Thursday said, with officials describing the mass exodus as unprecedented in recent years.
The report documented about three settler-related incidents every day in the West Bank – the highest daily rate since the United Nations began documenting the trend in 2006. The violence has completely emptied five Palestinian “communities.”
The report stated that six others witnessed the departure of half of their residents, while seven others witnessed the flight of a quarter of them.
According to the report, “With the expansion of Israeli settlements under the far-right government of Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinians say that violence practiced by extremist Israeli settlers has reached its peak.”
“The United Nations has recorded unprecedented levels of settler violence against Palestinians this year, and while the humanitarian community is responding to their urgent needs, there would be no need for humanitarian assistance if their basic rights were respected,” Lynn Hastings, humanitarian coordinator in the occupied Palestinian territories, told The Associated Press. "By the occupation authorities.
Those who have left their homes say attacks on their pastures and violence from settlement outposts — many of which have recently been established on hilltops surrounding rural Palestinian villages — have prompted them to leave permanently.
The report says, "This trend changes the map of the West Bank and further undermines the prospects for establishing an independent Palestinian state. The Palestinians seek to establish their future state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip - areas occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East War."
According to the Associated Press, “The affected villages depend mostly on pastoralism and agriculture for their livelihoods. The report stated that almost all communities had to sell part of their livestock, and 70% had to borrow money to pay for artificial fodder after settler incursions blocked access to grazing lands.” "And more than a third of the population was forced to change their livelihoods, with some abandoning sheep herding altogether."
According to the report, the Palestinian communities that witnessed the largest population loss were in the areas with the largest number of settlement outposts.
The report says: “Successive Israeli governments have promoted settlement expansion for nearly six decades, but Netanyahu’s far-right government has made it a top priority. Bezalel Smotrich, a powerful settlement agitator and finance minister, now oversees settlement policy and has pledged to ramp up construction.” And legitimizing settlement outposts that were built without a license.”
The international community overwhelmingly views the settlements as illegal and a major obstacle to peace. President Joe Biden met with Netanyahu on Wednesday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, and raised these concerns with him about the Israeli government’s treatment of the Palestinians.
In their first meeting since Netanyahu took office late last year, Biden urged Netanyahu to take steps to improve conditions in the West Bank at a time when violence is escalating in the occupied territories, according to the Associated Press, “a senior US official confirmed, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss private talks.” “Biden raised his concerns about terrorist violence committed by settlers” during the meeting.
Displaced Palestinians report that the Israeli authorities, charged with administering the area, rarely respond to cases of settler violence. According to UN data, almost all communities where displacement occurred said they had filed complaints with the authorities, but only 6% said the Israeli authorities followed up on the complaint.
The escalation in settler violence comes at a time when there is violent Israeli-Palestinian fighting in the region.
About 190 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire this year. Nearly half of them belonged to armed groups, but young men throwing stones in protest against the military incursions and people who did not participate in the confrontations were also killed. More than 30 people were killed in Palestinian attacks on Israelis.