Black Xmas in Bethlehem: Israeli army, settlers step up attacks on West Bank
New Delhi, Dec 10 : Since Israel declared war on Hamas after it was attacked on October 7, there has been a marked increase in violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the relatively peaceful West Bank.
Since the October 7 attack, Israeli settlers have killed at least nine Palestinians in the West Bank, three times the number in 2022. Attacks on Palestinian villages and farmers have become frequent.
Calling out Israel to stop violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, and in a gesture to address attacks that have driven Palestinians out of their homeland, the US proposed visa restrictions on Israeli settlers engaging in undermining peace, security and stability in the West Bank.
Palestinians describe settler violence as a part of greater effort by Israel to force them out of their land. In 2018, the Zionist state had enacted the controversial nation-state law which includes calling Jewish settlement efforts a 'national value' which it would 'encourage and promote.'
Condemning violence by Israeli settlers in the West Bank, France called it a "policy of terror" that means to displace Palestinians.
As per the figures by the UN, daily settler attacks have more than doubled since the Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7 and the ensuing assault on the Palestinian enclave of Gaza.
Hamas launched a massive surprise attack on southern Israel on October 7, and claimed over 1,200 lives besides holding close to 240 others hostage.
In retaliation, Israel launched a devastating assault on Gaza, killing more than 16,200 people and displacing more than 1.5 million others, as per Palestinian officials.
In these two months of war between Israel and Hamas, relentless Israeli air strikes and ground attacks have killed at least 17,000 Palestinians and injured over 43,000 in Gaza.
The year 2023 has been an exceptionally violent year in last 15 years for the residents of West Bank as about 200 Palestinians and 26 Israelis were killed, as per UN data.
However, in a matter of three weeks since Hamas' attack on Israel, more than 120 West Bank Palestinians have been killed. Clashes with soldiers are reportedly the reason behind most deaths.
Israel had captured West Bank in 1967, in the Middle East war and it has been under military occupation ever since while Israeli settlements have constantly expanded.
Palestinians see West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state that includes Gaza and East Jerusalem.
However, as West Bank faces growing Israeli aggression amid the Gaza war, Israeli authorities have upped their ante with increased arrests of Palestinians in West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Approximately 7,800 people have been detained in these areas over the past two months since the war broke out.
At least 2,873 people are under administrative detention due to suspected security concerns, without charge or trial.
Voices from ground zero inform that 'As for the arrests in Gaza, there is a large number of people arrested by the Israeli occupation and taken to unknown places for investigation.'
Another Palestinian resident said: 'Until now, we do not know the names and numbers due to the ongoing war.'
No human rights institutions are allowed to visit them.
So far, 266 Palestinians have been killed, and more than 3,365 others injured by Israeli forces and settlers in the West Bank since October 7, as per data of the Palestinian Health Ministry.
At present, Israel is not the only country at war; Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the persisting war has created a demand for military equipment.
Defence expenditure worldwide has gone beyond $2 trillion. This is the highest level in inflation-adjusted figures since at least the end of the Cold War, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Palestine being an aggravated war zone, the financial returns from the supply of arms to Israel against Gaza point to capitalised commercial interest.
This brings us back to US' diplomatic objection to the war, but how far will it go in terms of giving military aid to Israel?
(Kavya Dubey may be reached at email@example.com)