Middle EastAnalysis

As Gaza suffers, Israeli army and settlers step up attacks in West Bank

Violence by settlers has become ‘much more considerable and much more lethal’ since October 7th, says UN official

While the world has focused on Israel’s war on Gaza, at least 200 Palestinians have been killed and 2,500 injured by Israeli soldiers and settlers in the occupied West Bank since the Hamas raid into Israel last month.

According to Israel, Hamas killed at least 1,200 people during its attack on October 7th, about a third of them Israeli soldiers, while Israel’s onslaught on Gaza has left more than 11,000 Palestinians dead, the Gaza health ministry has said.

Hamas officials have said the co-ordinated raid was in response to the 16-year Gaza blockade, Israeli incursions into Al-Aqsa mosque in occupied East Jerusalem, and Israeli West Bank raids and settler attacks. Hamas military commander Mohammed Dief declared the time has come “for the enemy to understand ... they cannot keep going without consequences”.

The United Nations has reported that the total Palestinian death toll in the West Bank this year is more than 400, far surpassing last year’s 155 fatalities, which was the highest figure since 2005. Meanwhile, Palestinian attacks killed three Israelis in the West Bank this year, the UN said.


In the West Bank, more than 2,000 Palestinians have been arrested by Israeli forces over the past five weeks and at least 900, including 350 children, have been driven from more than 100 homes, according to the UN.

The West Bank and East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in 1967, have a population of three million Palestinians and 750,000 illegal Israeli settlers.

Palestinian sources say they face confinement in their homes, restrictions on movement, dismissal from jobs, arrest for social media posts critical of Israel and increasing harassment from Israeli troops and settlers who have been armed by the government.

Tensions between Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank built up during February and March 2022 and in mid-April erupted into clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian worshippers at Al-Aqsa mosque’s flashpoint compound in East Jerusalem, which Jews regard as the site of ancient Jewish temples. During this period, 17 Israelis and 40 Palestinians were killed.

Daily and nightly army raids on Palestinian cities, towns, villages and refugee camps were then launched by the coalition headed by former right-wing Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett, who handed over the premiership in July 2022 to centrist Yair Lapid.

These incursions took place as a new generation of Palestinian armed groups rose in the West Bank. They fought the Israeli military and carried out occasional attacks on Israeli soldiers and settlers.

At the end of December 2022, prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu formed a new government – the most right-wing in Israel’s history – which multiplied, escalated and expanded West Bank military operations. This culminated in repeated Israeli assaults, which have killed dozens of Palestinians in Jenin, the long-standing resistance stronghold.

The Israeli army has added aerial bombardment and drone warfare to raids with tanks and armoured bulldozers, destroying homes, roads and mosques across the West Bank.

Since October 7th, the UN has also recorded more than 200 settler attacks against Palestinians, resulting in casualties, damage to property and eight deaths.

The settlers “are a bit more emboldened by the fact that there’s a war [taking place],” West Bank director of the UN agency caring for Palestinian refugees Adam Bouloukos told Al-Jazeera. “And their violence is much more considerable and much more lethal.”