JERUSALEM (AFP) – Palestinian children are coming under increasing attack by a handful of violent, extremist Jewish settlers, a rights group said Monday in a report on the human cost of settlement expansion.
The study, which was compiled over two years by Defence for Children International-Palestine (DCI), investigated 38 separate incidents of settler violence towards minors, which resulted in the deaths of three children and injuries to 42 others.
Details of the attacks were set out in sworn affidavits and compiled in the report: “Under Attack: Settler violence against Palestinian children in the occupied Palestinian territory.”
Such attacks are usually carried out in groups and tend to be characterised by verbal harassment, intimidation, physical assaults and the destruction of property, the study found.
In 13 of the cases, settlers opened fire, killing three children and injuring another 10. Physical assault and intimidation was also reported in 15 cases, and stone throwing in another nine incidents. Cursing and verbal abuse was documented in almost every case.
“Continued settlement expansion and a growing settler population in the occupied territory have severely impacted the security of the Palestinian population, particularly children, whose lives are increasingly threatened by willful attacks perpetrated by extremist settlers,” the report said.
In eight cases, soldiers colluded with the attack by either joining in, turning a blind eye or punishing the victims rather than the perpetrators, it found.
Incidents of violence tended to be concentrated in certain areas, with 21 attacks carried out in and around the southern city of Hebron, and another seven near Nablus in the north, close to the Yitzhar and Bracha settlements — “areas where settlers adhere to extremist and violent ideologies,” the report said.
The study also found that Israel’s failure to enforce the law and hold the perpetrators accountable for their actions had “created an atmosphere in which settlers enjoy impunity and Palestinians live in fear.”
Veronica Naranjo, one of the DCI researchers involved in compiling the report, said that none of the settlers involved in the 38 incidents of violence had been prosecuted.
“Not one single settler was prosecuted in any of these cases,” she told AFP, while indicating that some families had refused to lodge a complaint “for fear of retaliation.”
“These attacks are carried out with impunity. Children need protection against these attacks, but that cannot happen without accountability,” she said.
Annual figures compiled by Israeli rights group Yesh Din about complaints of settler offences against Palestinians have repeatedly shown that nine out of 10 police investigations fail to lead to a prosecution.
In response to the allegations in the report, Naftali Bennett, head of the Yesha Council of settlers, said most of the time, the two populations lived “in peaceful coexistence” although when violence did erupt, it was started by the Palestinians.
“Despite the tone of this report, it is important to acknowledge that most events of violence against residents of this area in fact originate from the Arab side, including several shooting attacks in recent weeks,” he told AFP.
The council, he said, was “strongly opposed to all acts of violence from any party as these actions are contrary to the sense of peaceful coexistence that we are working to preserve.”
Israeli police, who are responsible for all settler-related affairs, had no immediate response to the report, and the military said it was weighing a response to allegations that its troops had colluded with the settler violence.