West Bank: 2023 was worst year for settler violence, Israeli watchdog says

Last year rated the worst for extremist attacks in the occupied area

A burnt-out car in Qarawa in the occupied West Bank, where attacks by illegal Israeli settlers on Palestinians are on the rise. EPA
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Israeli settlers killed at least 10 Palestinians and torched dozens of homes in the occupied West Bank in 2023, making it the most violent year on record for attacks by illegal settlers, an Israeli watchdog said on Monday.

Numerous West Bank attacks were carried out by Israeli settlers and the violence surged after Hamas's October 7 attacks in Israel, said Yesh Din, a human rights group.

"At least 10 Palestinians were killed by settlers and dozens of homes and vehicles were set on fire" last year, it said.

"2023 was the most violent year in settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank in both the number of incidents and their severity."

Israeli settler violence driving Palestinians from their homes

Israeli settler violence driving Palestinians from their homes

The West Bank has been under Israeli military occupation since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and tensions have escalated since the current outbreak of fighting between Israel and the Gaza Strip's Hamas rulers.

About 490,000 illegal settlers live among approximately three million Palestinians in the West Bank.

Yesh Din began monitoring settler violence against Palestinians in 2006.

"The first two months since October 7 were particularly violent, with Yesh Din documenting 242 settler violence incidents," it said.

"In these incidents, hundreds of Israelis raided Palestinian villages, setting fire to dozens of homes and vehicles."

At least 317 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces and settlers in the West Bank since the Gaza war began, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Ramallah.

Yesh Din refuted claims made by the military and police of a decrease in settler violence in recent months, saying numbers reflected a drop in complaints filed to Israeli authorities.

Since the current right-wing Israeli government came to power in December 2022, more Palestinians have expressed a "lack of trust" in Israeli law enforcement authorities in the West Bank, it said.

"Settler violence is the policy of the Israeli government," the watchdog said of the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which includes settlers and ultranationalist hardliners.

Last month the US said it would refuse visas for extremist Israeli settlers who attack Palestinians, stepping up pressure to curb the wave of violence in the West Bank.

Meanwhile, at least 41 people were killed in 2023 in Palestinian militant attacks in Israel and the West Bank, the Shin Bet security agency said.

More than 520 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank in 2023, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

Updated: January 01, 2024, 6:18 PM