Israeli settlers take advantage of the war in Gaza to expel Palestinians from their lands in the West Bank

On the walls of the school Khirbet Zanutah, a village of Palestinian shepherds from the south of West Bank, there is an inscription on the wall: “08/18/25.” It is the graduation date of one of the children, a dream that he will never see fulfilled. The close to 250 inhabitants of the town They are loading all their belongings on tractors and trucks, from livestock fodder to the uralite roofs of their houses, school books or work tools. They leave the village of their parents and grandparents, unable to bear the settler violence and the Israeli military. “The last time they came, a few days ago, they didn’t order us to leave or they would kill us all”, says Abdulhadi Altel resignedly. Yours is not an isolated case. As the world looks at Gaza, hundreds of Palestinians are being expelled from their lands in the West Bank at gunpoint, a ethnic cleansing campaign of unusual dimensions since 1967.

Due to the stony orography of the village, surrounded by a Jewish settlement and an industrial area also belonging to the settlers, traces of the last attacks can still be seen. Burst water tanks, torn out windows and looted houses with everything lying on the ground. “Normally they harassed us in the fields, throwing stones at us so we couldn’t graze and scaring the cattle with drones,” says one of the members of the Altel family. But things changed after October 7when the war in Gaza after the massive attack of Hamas over the south of Israel. “They began to enter the town, usually at night. They point their rifles at you, they hit people with the cylinder heads, destroy property and they threaten us to leave because they want to keep the land,” say several helpless men in front of the bare concrete wall of a house.

Five days ago they were given a ultimatum. “They pointed a gun at my father. rifle to the head and they said to him: ‘You leave or we kill you”.

Villages financed with European funds

Ironically, the little that will be left standing when the last tractor has loaded the last sheep will be the village school, financed with European funds and of the Spanish Cooperation. “Humanitarian aid for Palestinians at risk of forced transfer”, says a plaque on the wall. That danger has become a reality without Spain either Brussels move a finger. And they are punctually informed. “He settler terrorism in the West Bank has caused a high number of civilian deaths while Palestinian communities are being forcibly displaced from their homes,” said this week the spokesperson for Josep Borrell, head of European diplomacy.

Only since October 7, 13 rural Palestinian communities have been completely emptied of its populationnearly 850 people, according to the Israeli NGO B’tselem. The situation is so alarming that a thirty Israeli organizations of human rights published a letter this week calling on the international community to act urgently to stop “the wave of settler violence, supported by the statewhich is causing the forced transfer of Palestinian communities in the West Bank.

A new Nakba?

It is not only happening in the South Hebron, where the village of Zanutah is located. Also on the periphery of East Jerusalem, Belen, Ramallah or the fertile Jordan Valley. None of this is new, really. According to a United Nations report, between January 2022 and September 2023, 1,400 Palestinians were expelled from their lands and rural communities. What has changed in recent weeks is the speed with which it is happening, as well as the degree of extreme violence used by settlerswith houses burned, murdersbeatings and pogroms. “The settlers are using this moment of distraction to put into practice their intentions and objectives: empty all Area C of Palestinians so that it is impossible to lift a Palestinian state. It is the Nakba of 2023”, says Yehuda Shaul, a veteran Jewish human rights activist, co-founder of Breaking the Silence and the Israeli Center for Public Affairs (OFEK).

The Nakba or catastrophe is what the Palestinians call the ethnic cleansing campaign perpetrated by Zionist militias from 1947 to 1949 in historic Palestine, resulting in the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their towns and cities, an event profusely documented by Israeli revisionist historians. And the Area C It is one of the three areas into which the West Bank occupied since the 19th century is divided. Oslo Accords. It covers nothing less than the 60% of its territoryall under administrative control of the Israeli army.

The other news of recent weeks is that it has become very difficult for the Palestinians distinguish between settlers and soldiers. Historically, soldiers were generally limited to protecting the former in their misdeeds, escorting them to ensure that nothing happened to them. But since the start of this war, that division has blurred. “The soldiers who protected the settlements are in Gaza, so the Army has had to mobilize the civil rapid intervention units of the colonies, which were in the bookingto put them in front of their brigades in the West Bank”, explains Shaul. “This has meant that we now have settlers in the area fully armed, “with military uniform and directed by their own commanders.” If we add to that that several settlers of the messianic far rightthe ideology that nourishes the most active vanguard of the movement, are ministers in Netanyahu’s government, you can understand why what is happening is happening. Or the total impunity with which it happens.

Until the last consequences

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A few kilometers from Zanutah, is the village of Susia, also Palestinian and with a similar horror story. After years of harassment and attacks, on October 16, a group of settlers arrived with bulldozers and blocked the entrances and exits of the town with big stones. “They tore down the cwater tanks and they shattered the vineyards. Then they entered the houses aiming rifles at children and the women and they gave us an ultimatum: 24 hours to leaves”, explains Naser Nawaaja, one of his neighbors, with a long history as an activist.

But unlike Zanutah, its residents have decided they are not going to leave. Whatever happens and Until the last consequences. “80% of the facilities in this entire area were financed with fEuropean waves. If they gave us the donations it is because they wanted to save those of us who live here. Or I’m wrong?”, asks Nawaaja. That moment has arrived. They don’t have much time left.