November 30, 2023
Dr Paul Mushombe Nibhumba: Testimonial from Doctors of the World Medical Coordinator in Mali
Doctors of the World urgently calls for diplomatic intervention with the Israeli government to protect West Bank communities threatened with forced relocation due to settler violence, and to restore full humanitarian access.
While the attention of the international community is focused on the humanitarian and public health catastrophe that continues to worsen in Gaza without a ceasefire in place, serious violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) and human rights are being committed in the West Bank by Israeli settlers. According to OCHA, 828 people, including 313 children, have been forcibly displaced from their lands due to settler violence or movement restrictions, while humanitarian actors are prevented from accessing these populations. In addition, 121 Palestinians, including 33 children, have been killed by Israeli forces and settlers since October 7, marking a worrying increase in civilian casualties in the West Bank.
Doctors of the World (MdM), a provider of emergency mental health and psychosocial services (MHPSS) to the Palestinian civilian population affected by occupation-related incidents in the West Bank, underlines its deep concern at the extremely high levels of settler violence during this month of October. While OCHA recorded an average of 3 incidents of settler violence in previous months in 2023, this number has risen to 7 since the beginning of October. 30% of these attacks resulted in casualties or material damage, with firearms being used in acts of threat, intimidation and direct fire.
The forced displacement of Palestinian families from pastoral communities in Area C of the West Bank due to Israeli settler attacks is a major concern. 15 communities have been totally or partially forcibly displaced since the beginning of October, affecting up to 828 people. While the number of settler attacks has continued to rise this year, abuses against Palestinian civilians by settlers are becoming more frequent and more violent. Israeli settlers use terror against Palestinians, entering their communities with weapons, committing physical assaults, threatening to kill and torture families if they remain on their land, destroying civilian property and facilities, and targeting community livelihoods by bulldozing their land, sheltering their animals or stealing their livestock. These intensified aggressions perpetrated by settlers are committed with impunity and often with the support of the authorities.
Communities in Area C have long experienced a sense of insecurity, fear and instability as violence from neighboring settlers continues to escalate. At a time when they are in dire need of protection and support, particularly psychological, in the context of the current rise in settler attacks, DotW is facing restrictions on access to vulnerable communities in need of a MHPSS response. Over the past three weeks, movement restrictions have multiplied, further fragmenting the West Bank, closing urban centers and isolating rural communities from access to essential services. While some humanitarian operations are completely hampered by these movement restrictions, the use of potential alternative routes to reach isolated communities is limited by the security situation on the roads, the latter severely affected by rising settler violence.
According to OCHA, 43% of all settler-related displacements since January 2022 have taken place since October 7, 2023. These figures highlight an unprecedented acceleration in the forced displacement of Palestinians. Taking advantage of the diplomatic and media attention focused on the hostilities in Gaza and Israel, land seizures and displacements of pastoral communities in the West Bank are increasing rapidly.
If no action is taken, many more Palestinian civilians living in Area C risk being forcibly displaced by settler violence. Doctors of the World, as a humanitarian organization, urgently calls on the international community to :
© Javier Bauluz & MdM España