World’s eyes on Gaza, attacks on rise in occupied West Bank
QUSRA (WEST BANK): When Israeli warplanes swooped over the Gaza Strip following Hamas militants’ deadly attack on southern Israel, Palestinians say a different kind of war took hold in the occupied West Bank. Overnight, the territory was closed off. Towns were raided, curfews imposed, teenagers arrested, detainees beaten, and villages stormed by Jewish vigilantes. With the world’s attention on Gaza and the humanitarian crisis there, the violence of war has also erupted in the West Bank. Israeli settler attacks have surged at an unprecedented rate, according to the United Nations. The escalation has spread fear, deepened despair, and robbed Palestinians of their livelihoods, their homes and, in some cases, their lives. “Our lives are hell,” said Sabri Boum, a 52-year-old farmer who fortified his windows with metal grills last week to protect his children from settlers he said threw stun grenades in Qaryout, a northern village. “It’s like I’m in a prison.” In six weeks, settlers have killed nine Palestinians, said Palestinian health authorities. They’ve destroyed 3,000-plus olive trees during the crucial harvest season, said Palestinian Authority official Ghassan Daghlas, wiping out what for some were inheritances passed through generations. And they’ve harassed herding communities, forcing over 900 people to abandon 15 hamlets they long called home, the UN said. On settler attacks, the Israeli army said only that it aims to defuse conflict and troops “are required to act” if Israel citizens violate the law. The army didn’t respond to requests for comment on specific incidents. US President Biden and other administration officials have repeatedly condemned settler violence, even as they defended the Israeli campaign in Gaza. “It has to stop,” Biden said last month. “They have to be held accountable. “ That hasn’t happened, according to Israeli rights group Yesh Din. Since October 7, one settler has been arrested — over an olive farmer’s death — and was released five days later, the group said. Two other settlers were placed in preventive detention without charge, it said.