How these Palestinians outsmarted the settlers in the northern West Bank
RAMALLAH, West Bank – Muhammad Hamayel, a 15-year-old from the town of Beita, southeast of Nablus, in the northern West Bank, was shot dead by the IDF during clashes in the town. on June 11, in protest against the outpost established on Jabal Sbeih land in the city.
The town of Beita has evolved into a point of heated confrontation between Palestinian residents and the Israeli army and settlers, in light of the latter’s attempt to establish a settlement outpost called Avitar at the top of Jabal Sbeih (Mount Sbeih).
Since the start of settlement activity at the top of the mountain on May 3, the residents of Beita have been engaged in daily clashes that seem to escalate every Friday, with the participation of residents of the two neighboring towns of Yatma and Qablan, to counter the takeover of the mountain by the settlers. The clashes resulted in the deaths of four young men: Muhammad Hamayel; Issa Barham, a doctor from Beita who was killed on May 14; Tariq Sanubar, a young man from Yatma killed on May 16; and Zakaria Hamayel, a teacher from Beita killed on May 28 – while hundreds more were injured.
The settlers’ latest attempt to capture Jabal Sbeih came after a settler was killed at the Zaatara checkpoint in a shootout by Mutassim al-Shalabi on May 2.
Moussa Hamayel, deputy mayor of Beita, told Al-Monitor that settlers had targeted Jabal Sbeih on several occasions, but their recent attempt was the most dangerous, as in a few days they installed more than 40 mobile homes on an area of 5 dunams. (1 acre) on a total area of 840 dunams (207 acres). They also paved the road to the top of the mountain, in a first step that later allows them to expand and control it.
He noted that Jabal Sbeih is a vital strategic location, as it overlooks the main road between the cities of Nablus and Ramallah, and runs along the road leading to Jericho and the Jordan Valley. In addition, it is only 1 kilometer (0.6 mile) from the Zaatara checkpoint, which is the most important military checkpoint for the IDF in the West Bank.
Hamayel explained that by taking control of Jabal Sbeih, the checkpoint and the mountain will be connected to the eastern region of the West Bank (the Jordan Valley), thus transforming the checkpoint into a great and unique gate of entrance to the northern West Bank, completely separating it from the central and southern West Bank.
Due to its location, Jabal Sbeih has in recent years been the subject of several attempts to seize it and establish a colony outpost at its top, but the locals have faced these attempts each time and forced the settlers to leave. The first trial took place in 2013 after a stabbing attack at the Zaatara checkpoint in which a settler named Avitar was killed. The settlers established the outpost with the same name. However, after locals held their ground and organized popular marches, the army had to dismantle the outpost.
In 2018, settlers again attempted to establish an outpost after the murder of a rabbi near the settlement of Ariel north of Salfit. They set up mobile homes and provided them with electricity and water, but residents opposed them, prompting the military to dismantle the outpost again.
The third attempt took place in 2020 when settlers attempted to establish three outposts in Jabal Sbeih, Jabal al-Arma and Jabal al-Najma in the city of Beita, but failed. The most recent attempt was in May and the locals seem to have successfully confronted the settlers this time as well.
On June 7, the IDF issued a military order prohibiting further construction of the Jabal Sbeih outpost, declaring it a military zone where no presence is allowed and prohibiting the entry of construction materials, provided the property is vacated within eight days.
However, Hamayel noted: “As long as the decision is not implemented on the ground, it remains ink on paper. We fear the decision is a time-saving maneuver to bypass the popular uprising. We have not yet received an official decision.
Speaking about the role of the municipality in supporting people who own land in Jabal Sbeih in light of the threat of colonization, he said the municipal council can exempt citizens from financial charges for the supply of electricity and water. region, but it cannot do more than that due to its limited financial capacity. “This is why we called on all official and civil institutions to support the inhabitants, to support their tenacity and to encourage them to stay in the region”, underlined Hamayel.
Hudhayfa Badir, a Beita resident who owns 5 dunams in Jabal Sbeih, told Al-Monitor that the settlement outpost failed due to resistance and tenacity from locals who refuse to sell an inch of the mountain to the settlers.
He pointed out that the settlers took advantage of the local and international interest in what is happening in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and the war in the Gaza Strip, to set up tents and mobile housing on Jabal Sbeih in an attempt to to take hold of.
Badir noted that residents will take all necessary measures to thwart any future attempts at settlement on the mountain, the most important being to take legal action to establish ownership of the land, maintain popular readiness and organize more activities in the area. nationwide.
He noted that according to what locals learned from Palestinian sources, the settlers made two attempts to circumvent the army’s military order to evacuate and dismantle the settlement outpost at Jabal Sbeih, but the military refused to withdraw its decision, stressing that residents are anxiously awaiting the execution of the military order.
Badir stressed the need for the local community and civil and official institutions to help the people of Beita to stop Zionist ambitions, whether by providing basic services, such as the supply of electricity and water or by paving of streets, to encourage people to stay in the area or by implementing projects there, in addition to the reclamation of wasteland and the construction of roads.
Regardless of the military order, the residents of Beita and Jabal Sbeih, in particular, remain on high alert, pending the implementation of the decision. Young men in the city continue to organize various activities, including what is known as the “nighttime confusion”, similar to what happened near the fence at the Gaza border in 2019.