According to local sources, a large group of armed Israeli settlers invaded Qusra village, near the city of Nablus in the northern West Bank, on Monday, and began uprooting olive trees, throwing stones and firing live ammunition at Palestinian farmers. Palestinian youth threw stones at the settlers, and the Israeli army then attacked the youth with live ammunition, injuring ten, three seriously.This attack is just the latest in a series of recent violations by Israeli settlers, who uprooted 500 olive trees from village land last week and vowed to attack and ‘remove’ Palestinians from their ancestral home, in an attempt to further expand an illegal Israeli settlement located on village land.
Raed Odeh, a resident of Qusra village, told reporters with Agence France Presse, ‘We found a lot of settlers uprooting olive trees and when they saw us they started throwing stones at the children, then a settler brought out his M-16 and started shooting at us’. He said that the villagers responded by throwing stones at the settlers, and soon after, the Israeli army arrived and began firing tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets, and live ammunition at the villagers.
According to Odeh and other eyewitnesses, the army did not attempt to apprehend or arrest any of the settlers who provoked the incident.
Israeli settlers living illegally in the Nablus area held a large protest last week, blocking major Palestinian roads and setting fire to Palestinian cars, when the Israeli military dismantled a small shed that some settlers had set up in an attempt to expand their colonial settlement further onto Palestinian-owned land.
A spokesperson for the Israeli military confirmed the use of live fire by soldiers during the clashes, telling reporters with AFP, ‘ The security forces were attacked by Palestinians with rocks, and in response, they fired directly at those who were throwing rocks’, aiming at their lower extremities with live ammunition.
According to local medical sources, ten Palestinians were hospitalized, most with gunshot wounds from Israeli military gunfire. Israeli settler groups said that one Jewish settler was also hospitalized after being hit by a stone.
Settlers from the nearby outpost of Esh Kodesh have expressed their plan to expand the settlement and displace the indigenous Palestinians of Qusra. In recent weeks their attacks on the Palestinian population have increased markedly, and the settlers have made several attempts to construct new structures on village land in an attempt to claim it for Israel.
The Israeli government has an official policy whereby settlers living illegally in the West Bank can set up new buildings and establish a presence in an area owned by Palestinians, then go through a process of recognition in order to receive services like water, sewer and electric service from the Israeli government. These illegal land confiscations are then officially recognized by the state of Israel as new municipalities, and incorporated into the Israeli state.
All Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are considered violations of international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signatory.