Palestinians across the West Bank describe how Israeli settlers, with military backing, are intensifying their takeover of land for illegal construction.

by Imad Abu Hawash, +972 Magazine

Since late December, Palestinians living in the village of Battir, west of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, have been cut off from significant portions of their land. A group of Israeli settlers simply arrived in the area one day — which UNESCO has designated as a world heritage site — and set up a new outpost, with a few small shacks for living in and for keeping their livestock.

“Settler shepherds took control of the area and started grazing their flocks on villagers’ lands, preventing Palestinians from reaching their pastures,” Ghassan Alyan, a resident of the village, told +972 Magazine. “They even flew drones into our flocks to disperse them and threatened to shoot them.”

police remove an illegal settler

As a result, the farmers and shepherds of Battir have completely lost access to land that used to be the source of their livelihood. “This area became forbidden for Palestinians to reach — settlers may shoot any Palestinian who is found there. The settlers wear army uniforms and move under the army’s protection,” Allyan continued, noting a trend by which the enlistment of settlers into the army’s reserves amid Israel’s war on Gaza has made it harder to distinguish between settlers and soldiers.

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