|Settlers set fire to mosque in Nablus
At least five settler-related incidents resulting in injury of Palestinians or damage to their property took place during the week, compared to a weekly average of six in 2014.
On 14 October, Israeli settlers threw a fire bomb through the window of a mosque in the village of Aqraba (Nablus) setting the mosque on fire and damaging completely the praying rooms. Anti-Palestinian graffiti was sprayed on the outside walls of the mosque indicating that the perpetrators are from the settlement of Tappuah. Reportedly, the Israeli police launched an investigation into the incident. In July 2014 the basement of a residential building located near the mosque was set on fire. Since the beginning of 2014 there have been at least two settler attacks on mosques across the West Bank, compared to three in 2013.
A number of incidents recorded during the week affected Palestinian farmers involved in the olive harvest, which officially began on 3 October 2014. Near the village of Jab’a (Bethlehem) 21 Palestinian owned olive trees were cut down and damaged, reportedly by Israeli settlers from the Bat ‘Ayin settlement. This brings the number of trees vandalized by settlers so far in 2014 to 7,500 (compared to 9,452 in the equivalent period of 2013) and to approximately 49,000 since 2009.
In another related incident, on 16 October, three masked individuals, reportedly settlers from Nahli’el settlement in Ramallah, damaged a Palestinian-owned vehicle while the owners were harvesting the olives in their land located 600 meters from the settlement. In addition, four incidents of intimidation of Palestinians engaged in harvesting by settlers were reported in Al ‘Iqab (Bethlehem), Beitin (Ramallah) and Kafr Qaddum (Qalqiliya), as well as one attempt of theft of olives in Kafr Laqif village (Qalqiliya).
In addition (not included in the count), during the reporting period, two Palestinian girls, five and six-years-old, were seriously injured in a hit and run incident by a settler vehicle travelling on Road 60, near the village of Sinjil (Ramallah); one of the girls died later of her wounds. The girls were reportedly standing on the edge of the road on their way to their homes after they were dropped off by a kindergarten bus. According to Israeli media reports, the perpetrator turned himself in to Israeli police and reported that he did not stop following the incident in fear for his life. Since the beginning of the year 14 similar incidents were reported, the majority of which occurred in the Hebron governorate.
According to Israeli media sources, during the week, there were nine incidents of stone throwing by Palestinians at Israeli settlers, of which two resulted in injury to two settlers and seven resulting in damage to their vehicles and to one house. In addition, four incidents of stone throwing, by Palestinians, at the light rail in Shu’fat (East Jerusalem) were reported.
Concerns over further settlement expansion in the Silwan area of East Jerusalem
During the night of 19 October, tens of Israeli settlers accompanied by Israeli forces took control of two residential buildings comprised of 10 apartments and a 700m2 plot of land in the heart of the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, in East Jerusalem. The houses were purchased by the Ateret Cohanim settler organization. In a similar context El’ad organization, on 30 September, had taken over 25 apartments in the same area.
Silwan has a population of some 55,000 Palestinians and is immediately adjacent to the Old City of Jerusalem. Due to its strategic and historical significance, it has repeatedly been the target of settlement activities by the Israeli government, as well as by religious settler organizations with government support. According to local sources, since the late 1980’s, Israeli settlers have taken over 19 buildings in Silwan occupied by 350 settlers. Furthermore, the City of David settlement tourist center is located at the entrance of Silwan, across from which, a plan promoted by El’ad for the construction of a visitors’ centre (Kedem center) was approved by the District Planning Committee in February 2014.
Settlement activity in Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem in recent years has resulted in restrictions on Palestinian public space, residential growth and freedom of movement, along with increased friction and violence, loss of property and the eviction of the long-term Palestinian residents.