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Palestinian shepherds suffocating as Israeli settlers steal more lands: Report

A man stands in the doorway of a house damaged in a reported Israeli settlers attack in the town of Burqah near the occupied West Bank city of Nablus on May 16, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

Palestinians in the occupied West Bank have reported a rise in land seizures by armed Israeli settlers, who are establishing makeshift shepherding outposts and refuse to leave the area.

Shepherds living in the West Bank and the Jordan valley are facing multiple challenges. Their sheep are confined to pens while the surrounding grazing land remains inaccessible due to aggressive settlers who have taken over the area, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Saturday.

Human rights groups have reported that Israeli settlers in shepherding outposts are armed and have used attack dogs to intimidate Palestinians, leading to the death of livestock and damage to property. To make matters worse, the exorbitant cost of food further deprives these shepherds of their means of survival.

An ongoing relentless population displacement is occurring in the Jordan Valley, where 18 pastoral communities have been compelled to vacate their residences in the West Bank due to settler intimidation, as revealed by data from the Israeli organization B'Tselem in March.

Based on the findings, the ethnic cleansing of this region has reached its peak as in the central Jordan Valley's ridge alone, four entire communities and another 25 lone families have been compelled to leave, all due to the relentless intimidation imposed by illegal Israeli settlers.

Additionally, B'Tselem emphasized that settler groups received support from Israeli military forces.

On November 28, 2023, masked settlers got into a resident named Jamal's sheep pen while he was away. Allegedly, they pierced the ears of 35 animals, tagged them with their own numbers, and reported to the authorities that the sheep had been stolen from them.

Consequently, Jamal was arrested, fined 17,000 shekels (approximately $4,700), and is now monitoring his flock from a neighboring farm. His children can identify their missing sheep as they roam on what used to be their property.

This is only one example of how Israeli settlers confiscate Palestinian properties with the help of Israeli forces.

In another case, settlers planted an Israeli flag in the center of the enclave, and when a shepherd uprooted it he and his neighbors were attacked and beaten by settlers.

Despite all settlements being deemed illegal under international law, the situation in the Jordan Valley has taken a turn for the worse amidst the ongoing Israeli aggression on October 7, as a disturbing trend of Israeli settlers invading Palestinian homes at night left them with no choice but to flee under threat.

The residents in Jordan Valley and the slopes of the hills including Arrab al-Milihat have arrived in 1981, after having been expelled twice from their previous homes: once, in 1948, from the Negev to the Jordanian West Bank, and then from there to the present location, after the Israeli forces established a base on the West Bank site and removed them.

According to the Israeli settlement monitoring organization Peace Now, the Israeli regime has seized over 1,000 hectares of land in the occupied West Bank only this year.

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