Israel-Palestinian clashes leave victims in West Bank settlement with heartache

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Clashes at the Jabal Sabih mountain, near the village of Beita in the occupied West Bank, have left Palestinian residents reeling from death and grief, as a year-long protest against Israel’s construction of an illegal settlement outpost has led to violence and rising casualties.

Several Palestinian protesters have been killed and dozens wounded by Israeli occupation forces supporting the illegal settlers during the protests, with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) saying at least 10 Palestinians have been killed, including two children, with many left injured or disabled as a direct result of confrontations.

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Amid attempts by Israeli settlers to re-establish an outpost -- contrary to the law -- on Jabal Sabih, Palestinian villagers have expressed their opposition in the form of marches and protests, bringing them into confrontations with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

“Beita is home to 15,000 residents,” explained Saeed Mohammad Ahmad Hamayil, whose 16-year-old son, Mohammad, was killed last June.

“Each household has gone through a misfortune over the last year.”

“If you enter any house and ask what they've been through, it is either that they have lost someone, faced injury, or have someone in the family who is disabled or imprisoned.”

ICRC collected testimonials of victims across the village, who have shared their daily grief of lost loved ones.

Hamayil said when he lost his son, Mohammad was two months shy of being 17.

“We are building a new home because we cannot bear to stay in the house where our son lived,” he said. “Everywhere I look, I see my son. It’s too painful.”

“Each day that passes I feel like he has been killed anew, especially during this time because he would have been getting ready for his high school exams.”

“Mohammad used to tell me, ‘I want to build a house and live here one day’. We want to make his wish come true.”

“The new house will be closer to the cemetery, and this will somehow make Mohammad’s mother feel closer to her son.”

‘My son’s death broke me’

Formerly an employee in the Palestinian Ministry of Labor, Hamayil said he retired early because he could no longer face work.

“My son Mohammad was one of the smartest children in his school. He was sociable, loved people and had a charismatic personality. He dreamed of going to college and majoring in law. All his hopes and dreams are gone. “

“I can’t do anything to protect my children, I can’t even protect myself. How am I going to protect them? My son’s death broke me, his siblings and his mother. I’m trying to keep it together as I talk, but I can’t.”

“I don’t want the crimes to be documented anymore; we have enough documents. We want these violent acts to stop. We are fathers; we feel and care for our sons.”

‘He was a perfect man’

Fellow resident Um Ali is the widow of Palestinian Imad Ali Dweikat. He was also killed in clashes, leaving behind five young children.

“My husband was an amazing father. Usually, villagers prefer boys, but he loved the girls so much. Of course, he was thrilled when his infant son Ali arrived, and for the two months, he knew him before he was killed. But he was always so happy with his girls.”

“He was a perfect man. He was a friend, brother, and husband, all in one. He was my love. We were married for 11 years. I can’t believe I have to live without him. I’m just in survival mode. There is no life without him.”

“My eldest cannot speak about him. Until now, she won’t go to his grave. I try to get the girls to talk about their feelings, but they have trouble speaking about it.”

Ali said her husband had a nickname for each of his girls.

“But he never got the chance to nickname his infant son,” she said. “He called Alaa ‘his first and biggest joy’. He called our second daughter, Baylasan, ‘my bodyguard, my protector’ because she’s strong. Our third we called ‘harkoosha’ [‘gremlin’] because she’s a troublemaker. And Roaa was named ‘a little smurf’ because she’s tiny.”

“His dream was for the girls to finish university. He expected Alaa to become a doctor and Baylasan an engineer. He wanted them to achieve big things in life. He cared deeply about their education. Him protesting on the mountain that day was also about protecting his family and the girls’ future.”

‘For a hundred days, we never left the mountain’

Beita resident Essa Hamdi Maali, born in 1954, is married with nine daughters and two sons. He was a construction worker in Israel until the age of 45, when he came to Beita to cultivate his land.

“I lived a quiet life until the settlers came,” he recalled. “The Beita protests involved the whole village: Men, women, the elderly, and youth. We began our ‘nights of confusion’ as a form of protest – playing loud music and car horns over the loudspeakers turned towards our mountain and pointing laser lights at the settlement at night.”

“We sat in the tents during the winter days and in Ramadan. Our shared demands brought us villagers closer together. For a hundred days, we never left the mountain.”

“I’m tired. I can’t access my own land which I inherited from my grandfather and father. We are afraid that one day there won’t be land. We made a promise to protect the mountain. I have a recording of every tree to keep it for the memory. I had a little album. I know the names of all the plants here in Beita.”

Clashes leave children disfigured

Twelve-year-old Rayan is one of the many children left with a lasting disability because of the clashes.

An explosion on Jabal Sabih mount left him without his left eye.

“It happened on a Thursday,” he said. “We were sitting on the mountain, and suddenly something exploded in my face.”

“I almost passed out, but then someone held me. I was in a lot of pain. I used to see with both of my eyes, but now I only see with one eye. This is our land, and we will not abandon it. But it has changed my life forever.”

Rayan’s father added: “My son is 12 years old. He can’t see in his left eye at all. Rayan suffered multiple injuries in his head, toe, and leg. He’s more upset now. He’s angry.”

"Anything that he asks for, I give to him. I cannot hurt his feelings or say no to him. He is afraid now. He does not play with anyone at school anymore, he is cautious to save his other eye.”

The West Bank is among the territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war where Palestinians seek statehood. Violence has simmered there since US-sponsored talks between the Palestinians and Israel broke down in 2014.

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