While world attention has understandably been focused over the past month on the Israel-Hamas violence centered around the Gaza Strip, violence has also been escalating in the West Bank. Long-running Israeli violence against Palestinians in the West Bank has intensified since Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attack that killed roughly 1,200 Israelis, most of them civilians.
Between October 7 and November 10, 168 Palestinians, including 46 children, were reported killed by Israeli security forces in various confrontations in the West Bank. Regular raids by Israeli troops that target armed Palestinian groups, as well as clashes with Palestinian demonstrators protesting the Gaza war, have led to many Palestinian deaths. Another eight Palestinians, including a child, were killed by Israeli settlers during this period. Combined deaths since October 7 from Israeli forces or settlers account for more than 40 percent of Palestinian deaths in the West Bank in 2023.
The violence has not been one-sided, either: reportedly at least 23 Israeli civilians have been killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 2023, a significant increase over previous years.
A less lethal but still serious pattern has been an acceleration in Palestinian communities in the West Bank being forcibly displaced by Israeli settlers. Even before October 7, the United Nations reported that settler violence in the West Bank had displaced over 1,100 Palestinians since 2022. Five Palestinian communities were completely emptied during this period, with 13 more being partially emptied. This already-unprecedented level of violence and dispossession has only grown since October 7: by early November, 1,149 more Palestinians in the West Bank had been displaced.
Settlers have variously destroyed Palestinians’ crops, generators, and solar panels; burned the tents of Bedouin herders; and threatened or beaten people. For example, Palestinians living in the villages of Umm al-Kheir and Susiya reported masked men in military uniforms beating people up. The Israeli rights group Yesh Din reports incidents of Palestinians’ olive trees being burned down or covered with cement.
Abu Jamal, one of 40 people displaced from the herding community of Al Ganoub on October 9 by armed settlers, recalled that “Settlers set fire to our tent and stole my goats…They destroyed everything that had kept me here.” Another 51 people were forced out of a herding community in Nablus by settlers on October 12. One refugee, Abu Ismail, says “I had no choice but to leave everything behind to protect my children."
Most of the displacements since October 7 have occurred in an administrative region called “Area C,” which accounts for 60 percent of the West Bank and is under Israeli control. Other displacements have occurred in Area B, which is technically under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction but has an Israeli security presence.
The Israeli authorities’ response to these displacements has been mixed. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly condemned settler violence and Israeli settlers and soldiers have clashed. Yet in many settler attacks documented by the United Nations in 2023, the attackers were accompanied or even supported by Israeli forces. UN data from prior to October 7 also shows that Palestinian complaints about displacement rarely elicited responses from authorities.
Aser al-Tal, a shepherd recently forced from his home, commented, “Those settlers are above the law; they are the state now… Those settlers could slaughter us and no one would care.”
The Israeli government might act to halt or slow this pattern of violence and displacement in the West Bank if pressured by the United States. The Biden administration could make US military aid to Israel partly conditional on Israeli authorities taking effective action to curb the abuses in the West Bank.
US citizens should consider contacting the Biden administration by phone, at 202-456-1111, or email to advocate the above course of action. They can also contact their representatives in the House and Senate to urge them to support this approach.