Settler and Jewish extremist violence against West Bank Palestinians has spiked by 78% during the last two weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic when compared to the rest of this year, the United Nations has reported.
Between March 17 and 30, “at least 16 attacks by Israeli settlers resulted in five Palestinian injuries and extensive property damage,” the UN reported.
“This represents a 78% increase compared to the bi-weekly average of incidents since the start of 2020,” it said. Its data is based on information from its field reporters.
The UN spoke of two incidents in which Palestinians were assaulted in the village of Umm Safa and Ein Samiya near Ramallah. In one of the assaults, an ax was used and in another one a hammer, the international body said.
“Another two herders were physically assaulted and injured (in one case by a dog unleashed by settlers), while grazing sheep near Ein al Hilweh (Tubas) and At Tuwani (Hebron),” the UN said.
There were five separate incidents in the Burqa village near Nablus. There were also attacks in Al Mughayyir near Ramallah and the villages of Khashem and Dara near Hebron.
The attacks included the stoning of vehicles, vandalizing structures and physical assault, the UN added. In the Gush Etzion region, some 100 Palestinian-owned olive trees were uprooted and in Hebron, surveillance cameras were damaged or stolen from a home and a school, the UN said.
According to the UN, there were 341 attacks against Palestinians by settlers and Jewish extremists in 2019. The report also noted a decrease in injuries during clashes with Palestinians and soldiers, as well as a decrease in IDF activity against Palestinians.
Some 40 Palestinians, including 70 children, were injured by Israeli security forces. “This represents a sharp decline compared to previous weeks,” the UN said. It attributed this to access restrictions imposed due to COVID-19.
Most of the injuries were the result of clashes that occurred in the Tuwani village near Hebron, which broke out after Israeli security forces responded to an incident of settler violence there.
Israeli security forces carried out 72 search-and-arrest operations in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, arresting 64 Palestinians, including 10 minors. Some of those operations took place in Hebron and 20 in east Jerusalem.
“The overall number of operations declined by nearly 30%, compared to the bi-weekly average since the beginning of the year,” the UN said.
It also recorded a Gaza rocket attack against Israel and an IDF counter-strike.
In the West Bank, the UN reported that an Israeli bus driver was injured in a stoning attack by Palestinians near Bethlehem. Another eight Israeli vehicles were damaged by stones on a bypass road near Ramallah. The information was based on NGO data.
On March 22, the IDF killed a 32-year-old Palestinian man and injured his relative in response to incidents of stone-throwing at Israeli vehicles in the West Bank near Ni’lin, the UN reported. Family members said the two men were on their way to buy supplies. The death brings the toll up to nine this year, it added.