About 500,000 Jewish settlers live in more than 250 illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. Settlers in the occupied West Bank, who long depended on Israeli soldiers for protection, have now established their own security force in every settlement, which works hand-in-hand with the Israeli military.
According to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, 94 violent attacks took place against Palestinian civilians between December 21, 2020, to March 13, 2021. Settlers have also forced the closure of main roads in the West Bank cities of Nablus, Tulkarm, and Jenin.
Munir Kadus, a researcher with the Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din, described the recent attacks as an “unprecedented escalation of violence against Palestinians across all of the West Bank”.
A group known as the “Hilltop Youths” is accused of attacking Palestinians and their property.
The Israeli military told Al Jazeera that its authority is limited to separating the two sides when clashes occur, saying it has no power to arrest, detain or investigate settlers occupying the West Bank, which is the responsibility of Israeli police.
“The Israeli security forces must take decisive and effective steps to prevent any friction between settlers and Palestinians, because it is in the interest of Israeli security to maintain a state of calm and stability, not to create security chaos through settler violence against Palestinians,” David Chacham, a former Arab affairs adviser for the Israeli defence ministry, explained.