Mariam recalls that once, after a group of settlers removed the number plate from an MSF car in Hebron, she argued with them to get the plate back. A soldier standing nearby pointed his gun at her and the team, and they had to leave.
Rage and rampage in the West Bank
In the area surrounding the northern West Bank city of Nablus, settlements illegal under international law were established on hilltops in the rural areas near the city. There, too, incidents reached record levels in 2022, while 2023 has brought one of the most dramatic settler incursions yet.
In the nearby town of Huwara, hundreds of settlers, some carrying knives and guns, went on a rampage in February 2023 after a Palestinian gunman fatally shot two settlers. The raid led to indiscriminate violence that left one civilian dead, over one hundred people injured and a lot of material damage to Palestinian property, ranging from broken windows to burnt cars.
Hussam Odeh is from a newer generation and doesn’t remember a time without an established settler presence nearby. He lives just off Huwara’s main street, where traffic increased significantly in recent months after Israeli forces used large cement blocks to better control access to the town.
Although just 15 years of age, Hussam is keenly aware of the power dynamics in the West Bank. From the window of his apartment, he can see soldiers on the roof of the building across the street, who use it as a vantage point over the town.
“We know them, and we can differentiate them,” he tells MSF staff, who visit his building to provide mental health support to his aunt and his younger cousins.
Hussam’s high school, Huwara Secondary Boys School, is particularly close to a settlement. In October 2022, as Hussam and his friends were playing soccer in the courtyard before first period, he began to hear shouting and screaming.
“We were told that settlers were attacking the school. They had guns and Molotov cocktails,” he says. The army eventually dispersed the settlers and sent everybody home, but two students were sent to hospital for injuries they sustained in the attack.