A Palestinian farmer was stabbed by a settler whilst working his land in Tuba village near Hebron on Monday.Palestinian news sources report that Mohamed Awad was attacked by a group of settlers who fled after stabbing him three times. He was taken to Hebron hospital for treatment, where he was described as having sustained moderate wounds to the shoulder.

Settler violence has sharply increased since the demolition of small numbers of buildings in settlement outposts near Nablus. Many have pursued a ‘price tag’ policy whereby local Palestinian communities ‘pay a price’ for any attempt by the army to reign in expanding outposts. Often the ‘price’ takes the form of graffiti or damage to property, although sometimes it involves greater levels of violence.

The murder of a settler family in Itamar has further inflamed the situation, although there remains speculation over exactly who might have been responsible. Both settlers and the Israeli government blame Palestinians for the attack.

Also, local sources reported Saturday that approximately 20 settlers from Kiryat Arba settlement near al-Buwayra, also Hebron, attacked a Palestinian family as they parked their car. The group surrounded the car and began to throw stones into the vehicle, injuring the four passengers, including two children, aged 6 and 4 years old. The father of the family, Mozbah Zatari, had to be taken to hospital as a result of the attack.

In a separate incident on Wednesday, the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) near at-Tuwani village reported further vandalism in one of the village’s olive groves. Six trees were destroyed, an act which villagers suggested had ‘almost certainly’ been carried out by settlers from Havat Ma’on. The CPT quotes Fadil Ahmed Raba’ as stating, “[T]hey did this because of the settlers who were murdered near Nablus”.

There are presently widespread concerns both within the Palestinian community and NGOs working the West Bank about a recent rise in settler violence. This problem is compounded by a lack of law enforcement against the settlers.

Israeli NGO Yesh-Din claims that 91% of the 642 investigations that it is monitoring are closed without any indictment filed against the defendant. The situation is, in fact, even worse than this because only a small proportion of complaints are ever taken to the authorities: most Palestinians are wary about dealing with the Israeli police.

If settlers are charged then the case is dealt with in Israeli courts according to civilian law, which provides a significant number of safeguards and legal protection. Palestinians live under Israeli military rule and as a result do not enjoy the same legal protection that they would have under civilian rule. This ‘dual system of law’ is of concern to Israeli human rights group, BT’selem.

All settlements are illegal under international law, although the US recently vetoed a resolution condemning them in the UN Security Council.