The United Nations issued a warning on Friday regarding a significant increase in West Bank settler attacks on Palestinian people and property, with nearly 600 incidents recorded in the first six months of 2023.
The UN’s humanitarian agency, OCHA, documented 591 settler-related incidents in the occupied territory during the mentioned period, resulting in Palestinian casualties, property damage, or both.
Jens Laerke, the agency’s spokesman, highlighted the severity of the situation, stating, “That’s an average of 99 incidents every month, and a 39-percent increase compared with the monthly average of the whole of 2022, which is 71.”
He also noted that the number of such incidents in 2022 was already the highest recorded since data collection began in 2006.
The West Bank, occupied by Israel in 1967, is home to nearly three million Palestinians and approximately 490,000 Israeli settlers are living in settlements considered illegal under international law.
Amidst the ongoing violence, Palestinian Bedouin and other herding communities are facing significant vulnerability.
OCHA documented the displacement of at least 399 people from seven Palestinian herding communities due to settler violence since early 2022.
Laerke reported that three of those communities had been completely emptied out, while the remaining communities had many families left.
The primary reasons cited for leaving were settler activities, including violence, and settlement expansion that resulted in the loss of herders’ access to grazing land.
The threat of demolition of homes and property by Israeli authorities was also mentioned as a contributing factor.
While some displaced communities managed to stay together, many others became dispersed, making their situation even more challenging.
OCHA has launched an urgent assessment of the humanitarian needs of sixty Palestinian herding communities directly affected by this escalating situation.
Laerke emphasized that “Israeli settlements are illegal under international law,” and their presence deepens humanitarian needs by impacting livelihoods, food security, and access to essential services.