While all eyes on Gaza, etnhic cleansing in the West Bank

Relatives of Palestinian boy who lost his parents and sibling in 2015 settler attack describe growing threat faced by Palestinians

By Mücahit Aydemir, Esat Fırat
08.11.2023

NABLUS, Palestine 

Relatives of Ahmed Dawabsheh, a Palestinian boy whose mother, father and one-and-a-half-year-old brother were burned to death by illegal Jewish settlers in 2015, describe the escalating Jewish settler violence in the occupied West Bank as “living in a ring of fire.”

After the Palestinian group Hamas launched a comprehensive attack on Oct. 7 in response to Israel’s ongoing violations against Palestinians and their sacred values and sites, especially Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Israeli army initiated intense air and ground attacks on the Gaza Strip.

At a time when all eyes are on Gaza, Israeli army violations in the occupied West Bank and violence by Jewish settlers against Palestinians are escalating.

Over 400 attacks in a month

The UN reported that since Oct. 7, 820 Palestinians have been displaced in the West Bank, and attacks by Israeli settlers have increased from an average of three to seven per day.

Since Oct. 7, more than 400 attacks were carried out in the region, resulting in death of nine Palestinians.

Palestinians emphasize that the constant expansion of illegal Jewish settlements, recognized as such under international law, is one of the biggest threats to the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and is causing fragmentation in the West Bank.

Armed Jewish settlers living in these areas frequently attack Palestinians and force them to leave their homes.

Israeli and international human rights organizations accuse Israeli forces of protecting the settlers who carry out these attacks.

Mother, father and baby burned to death

The tragedy that befell the Dawabsheh family is one of the most tragic examples of these attacks.

The Palestinian family’s house in the village of Duma near the West Bank city of Nablus was set on fire by Jewish settlers on the morning of July 31, 2015.

As a result, the family’s 18-month-old child, Ali, was killed in the fire. The father, 31-year-old Saad Dawabsheh and mother, 28-year-old Riham Dawabsheh and their other child, 4-year-old Ahmed, were seriously injured and taken to the hospital.

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However, doctors could not save Saad and Riham and they died.

The only surviving family member, Ahmed, suffered burns on 60% of his body. Left without his parents, he now lives under the care of his grandfather and uncle in Duma.

Like other Palestinians in the West Bank, Ahmed continues to witness the increasing settler violence.

In Duma, where an Anadolu team went to visit the Dawabsheh family’s home for an interview, there is an eerie calm after recent settler attacks. Burned vehicles are conspicuous at the entrance of the village, where there is no traffic or people on the streets.

During the visit, Ahmed, now 13 years old, was playing with his cousin in his uncle’s house. He appeared shy and reserved but had a cheerful demeanor.

‘They suffocate us from all sides’

Hussein Dawabsheh, Ahmed’s grandfather, who lost his daughter, son-in-law and grandson in the arson attack, said that since the tragedy they endured in 2015, violence by fanatical Jewish settlers against the Palestinian people has been on the rise.

“For example, to go out in the street, you have to make a thousand calculations. You have to take care to avoid being attacked by Jewish settlers and you are afraid. Jewish settlers can stop you and kill you. In other words, the situation is very bad,” he said.

Asked how Palestinians cope with this chronic problem, which paralyzes their daily lives, he responded: “We are Muslims, and we believe in destiny and fate. Our dead have become martyrs; they have risen to the Lord of the worlds, Allah. But after them, those who suffer are their families, siblings and their homeland. Everyone is going through this pain.”

“Although we are the ones who are victimized, they consider us terrorists. They treat us as terrorists at any time. In any situation, Israel cancels the work permits of our children working in the Israeli areas. They suffocate us from all sides,” he told Anadolu.

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‘We killed three, now it’s the fourth’s turn’

According to Hussein Dawabsheh, the behavior of Jewish settlers after the disaster that befell them was no different from the atrocity they committed.

“For them, nothing had happened. They were singing and dancing. In their songs, they said, ‘We killed three. Now it’s the fourth’s turn.’ We saw them repeatedly say on social media ‘It is a mistake for this child to live. We killed his mother, father and sibling. Now he will take revenge.’”

“Imagine being afraid of a 4-year-old child. They started this. They are the source of violence. It’s not us.”

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Nasr Dawabsheh, Ahmed’s uncle, said the settler attacks did not start with the attacks on Gaza but had been increasing during this period.

“With the attack on Gaza, Jewish settlers along with the Israeli army and this fanatical Israeli government were given permission to organize attacks to kill Palestinians,” he said.

Emphasizing that they cannot go out in the streets, he said: “If you are going out into the streets, you need to say your goodbyes to your family and children because you may not come back home.”

Noting that the olive harvest season has begun, he said: “For example, these days are the season for picking olives. As soon as the attack on Gaza started, four vehicles were burned here by Jewish settlers and a young Palestinian was also injured. They even prevented the ambulance from taking this young man to the hospital.”

“They also attempted to attack the village and get in. These attacks continue every day. There is a clear and systematic attack. These Jewish settlers have permission to shoot at any Palestinian, whether they are women, men, children or the elderly.”

Go or you will be killed

Nasr Dawabsheh continued, saying: “Terrorism is practiced against the Palestinian people. Not only since Oct. 7 but for a long time. This terrorism has been going on in the West Bank. In recent times, it has increased even more. As I said, this is a systematic terrorism and planned.”

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“They sent various threatening letters to many villages and towns. In these letters, it said, ‘You either voluntarily go to the east of the Jordan River or you will be killed.'”

Children in Palestine ‘have grown up now’

Eight years after the tragedy, Ahmed’s current situation was also mentioned by his uncle.

“He lost his mother, father and sibling. No matter what we do for him, we cannot replace his parents. Regardless of the occasion, whether it’s a graduation, holidays or birthdays, whatever we offer him will always be lacking. In Palestine, children have grown up now.

“Ahmed has gone through a long healing process. At school, the teacher asked the students to draw pictures of their families, and he drew four people. Despite knowing that his family is no longer alive, he still insists that there are four people. Imagine how you would convince this child that his family no longer exists,” he said.

“God kept him alive for a purpose, so that he may be a symbol against the occupiers until the Day of Judgment.”

*Writing by Alperen Aktas from Istanbul

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