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The ‘tear-gassed’ Palestinians trying to stop Israeli settlers occupying their land | World News

It is night now and the lights of our SUV are illuminating the way up the mountain road in the West Bank.

We are above the village of Battir, south of Jerusalem, on rocky land that has been cultivated for decades by generations of the same Palestinian families.

They didn’t create this road. One evening, an Israeli settler who lived nearby bulldozed it. In the weeks that followed, he drove the sheep to the ground, built a pen for them, and then dug a hole in the hillside.

We are with Hasan, one of the villagers who fought for the return of this land through the Israeli courts.

“He (the settler) was right there, and he started expanding all over that hilltop.

“He brought some big containers on wheels and set up a big camp with electricity generators and so on, with all the amenities like water tanks and things like that.”

Every evening, men from Battir come here to keep watch on schedule. A few minutes after our arrival, the spotter saw the lights of the car and raised the alarm.

Hasan said: “His (the settler’s) application was for a pasture permit to graze his sheep in the area. Then he starts saying that this is the promised land of Israel, and this is the land of the State of Israel, and I have the right to be here.

“But he never produced any evidence of land ownership or a contract he obtained through any legal entity.”

Every night, the men from the village of Battir take turns climbing the hill and on duty, trying to thwart the Israeli settlers.
Every night, the men from Battir take turns on duty and try to stop the Israeli settlers.

Hassan and his fellow villagers were threatened, and on one occasion the Israeli security forces fired tear gas at them as they tried to defend their positions.

“In total, more than a hundred settlers gathered. We were very worried that it would become like a violent reaction. The third time he came was in March or February 2022, it was the most dangerous when he came with some support from the soldiers. with him.

“They start firing tear gas at us so that we can’t even get close to the top of the hill. So we learn that it gets violent. We don’t want to lose anyone from our village, our brothers or our cousins.”

This is a story you hear regularly in the West Bank. Israeli settlement expansion is illegal under international law and opposed by the US, UK, EU and UN. It is a source of extreme anger for many Palestinians.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken flew in at a “key moment” as the security situation here is becoming more precarious by the day.

He met with the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Monday and will meet with Palestinian leaders in Ramallah on Tuesday.

While the US is still talking about a two-state solution, like other international governments, that is not possible right now.

Read more
Analysis: why this is a dangerous moment for Israel and the West Bank
Palestinian militants ‘ready to die’ as chance of all-out war rises
Netanyahu vows to ‘strengthen’ West Bank settlements after shelling

Battir village in southern Jerusalem
Battir village, south of Jerusalem

Mr. Netanyahu is facing international pressure to ease tensions while at the same time beholden to far-right voices in his new cabinet.

In response to the recent attacks in Jerusalem, the government has said it wants to arm more Israeli civilians, and there is already talk of the death penalty.

The future of Hassan and other Palestinians is worrying.

Hassan said, “Unfortunately, this is a very dangerous situation. We are very concerned about all the support that the settlers are getting thanks to the new government.

“We are very worried that they will come and attack us with their weapons and we will not be allowed to be here anymore.”

What do you want? I asked him.

“I want to live in the world. I want to live in freedom. I want freedom because freedom will bring us peace and justice. Without freedom, we will never get peace and justice in this country.

“And there must be a solution, if they want to have one state, two states, 10 states, I don’t mind, I just want a free state where we can live as Palestinians.”

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