The Army's Responsibility to Protect Palestinians in the West Bank from Settler Attacks
On September 28, 2021, dozens of masked Israelis approached the area surrounding the village of Mufagara in Masafer Yatta of the South Hebron Hills. They attacked a shepherd and killed three sheep with knives. The attackers were armed with firearms, clubs, sticks, and stones. They pelted homes with stones and slashed water pipes. Some even entered homes and damaged property. Testimonies from the villagers and documentation of the incident indicate that 12 people were injured in the grave assault, including a three-year-old boy.
The attack lasted for several hours, and, throughout it all, soldiers stood behind the Israeli settlers as they attacked. Not only did the IDF not stop them, but they also fired large amounts of tear gas and rubber bullets toward the Palestinian residents of the village.
Settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank is not a new phenomenon. Such violence is de facto backed by soldiers on the ground, who usually do nothing to stop it, and sometimes even join the attackers.
On September 30, 2021, ACRI appealed to the Commander of the Central Command, calling upon him and the IDF to protect Palestinian residents in the South Hebron Hills. In the appeal, ACRI Attorney Roni Pelli noted that law enforcement authorities’ incompetence in protecting Palestinians from settler violence is not incidental: it stems from the Central Command’s refusal to contend with Israeli criminals in the West Bank, turning a blind eye when soldiers on duty do not stop attackers, even when present at the incident–or worse, when the soldiers are violent themselves.
We thus demanded:
To station permanent police and guard forces surrounding the unauthorized outposts in the South Hebron Hills, whose role is to protect the security of all residents in the area, including Palestinian residents;
To inspect and monitor weapons in the possession of residents of unauthorized outposts, especially in cases where weapons are used for unacceptable purposes in the context of settler violence and aggressive actions against Palestinians;
To immediately suspend the commanders who were on the ground at the time of this violent attack and did not act to stop it, and to bring them to justice;
To refine the guidelines for commanders and soldiers operating in the West Bank, especially regarding their authority and law enforcement obligations in relation to unlawful Israeli citizens;
To avail intermediaries for such cases.