Palestinians and settlers clashed at the site of the former West Bank Homesh settlement on Monday, in an incident that left three Palestinians injured.
Both Palestinian and settlers at the site claimed that they were victims and not the perpetrators of the violence, which they warned was so severe it could have ended in the death of those involved.
The left-wing group Yesh Din contended that settlers attacked 15 Palestinians as they tried to access their farmland on the Homesh hilltop.
The Samaria Regional Council argued that the violence started when a yeshiva student passed by the Palestinian vehicles on his way to the small modular seminary at the site and was attacked by the Palestinians.
Both the Samaria Regional Council and Yesh Din provided video of the incident, but none of the short clips provided a clear narrative of the events.
“We felt that we were in grave danger and had a feeling that we might not make it out of there alive,” said a Yesh Din field worker. “A group of people were chasing us, and I heard one of them shooting into the air. It makes you feel fear in your whole body.”
Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan said that the students at Homesh “survived by a miracle.”
The army said that it responded to a violent incident between settlers and Palestinians at Homesh, that both groups had thrown stones, and that settlers had fired in the air.
Homesh is one of four settlements in northern Samaria that the IDF destroyed in 2005, concurrent to the Gaza withdrawal. Right-wing politicians and activists have long argued that Israel should rebuild the four settlements that also included Sa-Nur, Ganim and Kadim.
Right-wing activists have made multiple illegal attempts to resettle Homesh and Sa-Nur, all of which the IDF has thwarted. A small modular yeshiva has also existed at the site for the last 16 years. The IDF has periodically evacuated it.
Since the 2005 demolition, Palestinians have made multiple attempts to farm the hilltop on which the Homesh settlement had been situated. The land belonged to the Palestinian village of Burka, and the High Court of Justice upheld the rights of Palestinians to farm that land, but security forces have not ensured that they can do so safely.
Supreme Court Justice Esther Hayut reiterated that stance last month.
“Given the situation at present, they [the Palestinians] have a right to access their lands,” said Hayut, adding that this has not previously occurred, and that they had not been given sufficient protection.
Yesh Din said that when Palestinian farmers headed toward their land on Monday, “about 15 settlers charged toward them while throwing stones and armed with clubs. The settlers managed to trap one of the Palestinians. They beat him severely with clubs and stones and pepper sprayed him. Two additional Palestinians were injured from stones as they tried to escape.”
It added that three Palestinian vehicles were also damaged by settler stone throwing.
“Eventually, the Palestinians returned to rescue their trapped comrade, and together they all left the scene,” said Yesh Din. “According to eyewitnesses, at least one settler fired live bullets,” and that three Palestinians were treated at Rafidiya Hospital in Nablus.
According to Homesh Yeshiva CEO Shmuel Wendy, “At 11:05, while the yeshiva students were busy studying Torah, five Palestinian vehicles passed by the yeshiva. Meanwhile another student who arrived alone was outside the yeshiva. He tried to enter the yeshiva but encountered the Palestinians.”
Wendy said that he called on the other yeshiva students to help him and that they had responded to his call.
“The Palestinians got out of the vehicles, attacked the yeshiva students, threw stones at them and tried to hit them with batons. The yeshiva students contacted the security forces and tried to keep the rioters away until the security forces arrived,” Wendy said.
Dagan called on the security forces to treat the event as a serious safety threat and to act accordingly.
“Unfortunately, the settlements in their entirety, as well as the State of Israel, are facing an orchestrated and planned delegitimization campaign by far-left organizations,” Dagan said.
“I call on the Israeli government and the law enforcement authorities to act immediately to stop this delegitimization campaign, and to stop these provocations in the area. This conduct endangers all of us,” Dagan said.