Since months, Palestinians across Historic Palestine have been rising up against decades of Israeli settler colonialism and apartheid. In the village of Beita, south of Nablus city, Palestinians have not only been protesting decades of Israeli oppression, but also intensified Israeli pillaging of their land.
The ongoing protests since over a month come as a rejection to the Israeli construction of a settler outpost on Mount Sabih, as well as the seizure of lands belonging to Palestinians from the villages of Beita, Huwarra, and Za’tara to inaugurate a new Jewish-only bypass road.
Murder at point blank
To disperse and suppress the protesters who ascend Mount Sabih almost every day, combat-ready Israeli soldiers use fatal violence against them. In almost one month, four Palestinians from the village of Beita have been lost to Israeli brutality while trying to oust the settler outpost built on top of Mount Sabih.
The brutal murder of Ahmad Zahi Banishamsah, 16, on Wednesday, June 16, 2021, is the latest Israeli crime against the peaceful protesters of Beita.
Like hundreds of other young protesters, Mohammed was expressing his outrage at the Israeli plunder of lands belonging to his village when an Israeli soldier shot him in the head with live ammunition. The medical staff at Rafidya hospital in the city of Nablus tried desperately to save his live but they failed after he succumbed to his wounds hours after he was shot.
Less than a week before, on Friday, June 11, 2021, the Israeli occupation forces shot dead Mohammed Said Hamayel. Mohammed, who is only a year younger than Ahmad, was participating in the Friday’s protest, where thousands from Beita and neighboring villages demonstrate at Mount Sabih, when Israeli soldiers shot him with a live bullet in the heart.
The third protester killed by the Israeli occupation was 28-year-old Zakariya Hamayel, a teacher of Arabic. He was shot in the chest on Friday, May 28th.
With eyes full of tears, his father narrates:
“We were about to have lunch when Zakariya left the house to Mount Sabih. I insisted on him to have his lunch first before he joins the other protesters. Yet, he refused and told me:
“I am in a rush as my cousin got injured and I need to help him.”
He left and never returned back.”
About three weeks before the killing of Zakariya, the residents of Beita mourned the Israeli murder of 42-year-old Issa Burhm. Issa is a father of four children.
While he was in a family gathering, he heard the voice of someone calling on anyone who has a car to go to Mount Sabih and transport injured protesters to hospital after the Israeli occupation prevented ambulances from accessing them. Burhm did not hesitate to help the wounded protesters.
He ascended Mount Sabih, and while he was carrying one of the injured protesters, an Israeli soldier shot him in the belly. While people were carrying him to hospital, he could only utter a few words before he passed away minutes after he was shot: “Don’t come with me… return back to the Mount [Mount Sabih] … my daughters.”
In addition to the point-blank murder of four peaceful protesters, hundreds of others have been injured with live ammunition, rubber-coated bullets and tear gas. Those who are neither killed nor injured are now being tortured in Israeli colonial dungeons as the Israeli occupation have intensified its overnight raid of Beita to arrest protesters.
Pillaging of land as an apartheid measure
Medhat Jaghoub, the head of Nablus Governorate Farmers’ association, who is also from Beita, comments on Israeli violence stating:
“Since the start of the protests about more than a month ago, Israeli soldiers have been using excessive violence to stop the relentless protesting of people against the takeover of our lands either to construct a new settler outpost or to inaugurate a new bypass road.
What poses another threat to us is that the settlers inhabiting the 30 portable houses that have been erected on Mount Sabih so far are armed against us.
It is hard for the ambulances to reach those who are shot by the Israeli occupation army as they have set up cement blocks on the entrances of the village.”
In addition to the construction of a settler outpost on Mount Sabih, the Israeli occupation forces have erected another one on Mount Al-Arma, to the north of Beita, a few months ago.
Both Mount Sabih and Mount Al-Arma enjoy a strategic location as they overlook the Jordan Valley, a fertile land threatened with Israeli annexation. Seizing the two hilltops represents a panoptical defensive tool as they would grant the Israeli occupation with a panoramic view over the Jordan Valley and the whole district of Nablus. This is why the Israeli occupation authorities have assigned them a place in its settlement expansion project.
The construction of settler outposts on both Mount Sabih and Mount Al-Arma is not the first of its kind. Before the newly erected outpost on Mount Sabih, there was another one removed due to Palestinian resistance. This was preceded by Israeli attempts to construct a military base on the hilltop.
Similar to Mount Sabih, Mount Al-Arma has been targeted by colonial greed more than once.
Attempts to take over Mount Al-Arma have started in the 1980s; but all of these attempts failed due to Palestinian popular protests. Latest of which was on March, 2020, when protesters succeeded in warding off Israeli Jewish settlers from the area. Thanks to more than a month of protesting, where the Israeli occupation murdered two Palestinian minors that Palestinians could achieve this victory; which has been recently disrupted by the re-construction of another settler outpost on Mount Al-Arma.
The re-erection of a settler outpost on Mount Sabih in the south of Beita, another one on Mount Al-Arma to the north of the village and a bypass road to the west is an Israeli measure to ghettoize Palestinian communities and disrupt their geographic contiguity with other Palestinian towns and villages.
Moreover, both Jewish-only bypass roads and settlements are part of the Israeli apartheid matrix of control over the West Bank; in addition to military checkpoints, the Apartheid Wall and the classification of certain areas as closed military or firing zones.
However, weeks of Israeli colonial violence, mourning of beloved ones, arrest of Palestinians and siege of Beita have failed to shake off the spirit of resistance among Palestinians there. Through their fervent steadfastness and clinging to the certitude of hope that the oppressed will win one day, the people of Beita render Israeli apparatuses of violence, apartheid and colonialism ineffective to stop their protests to reclaim their lands.