Settler attacks against Palestinians in occupied territories tripled in 2018

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Settler attacks against the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank tripled in 2018, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported yesterday. Israeli settlers carried out at least 482 attacks against Palestinians last year, up from only 140 in 2017, the daily said.

The settler attacks ranged from "beating up and throwing stones at Palestinians, painting nationalist and anti-Arab or anti-Muslim slogans, damaging homes and cars to cutting down trees belonging to Palestinian farmers."

Haaretz attributed the decrease in settler attacks during 2016 and 2017 to the "response of the [Israeli] authorities following the firebombing of a home in the West Bank village of Duma, which took the lives of three members of the Dawabshe family."

In July of 2015, Israeli settlers torched the Dawabsheh family's West Bank home in an attack that claimed the lives of two Palestinians and their 18-month-old baby. Their eldest son, Ahmed, 6, survived the attack, but suffered severe burns that have affected his mobility. The incident sparked international outrage at the time, with the Dawabsheh family accusing Israel of dragging its feet in prosecuting the suspects despite admissions by Israeli officials that they knew who was responsible. Last week, Israeli security sources warned of a possible fresh wave of "price tag" attacks by Jewish extremists against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, Israeli media reported. According to Israeli figures, Jewish "price tag" attacks in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, rose by 60 percent last year compared to 2017. "Price tag" vandalism is a strategy used by extremist Jewish settlers to attack Palestinians and their property in retaliation for perceived threats to Israeli settlement expansion.

More than 650,000 Jewish settlers now live in 196 settlements built with the Israeli government's approval across the West Bank, according to Palestinian figures.

Settlements are one of the most heated issues facing the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, frozen since 2014. The international community regards all Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories to be illegal and a major obstacle to Middle East peace. The area, captured by Israel in 1967, is not sovereign Israeli territory, and Palestinians there are not Israeli citizens and do not have the right to vote. Some 500,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, areas that are also home to more than 2.6 million Palestinians. Palestinians have long argued that Israeli settlements could deny them a viable and contiguous state.

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