Settler Violence Disrupts Aid to Gaza Amid Growing Humanitarian Crisis

Humanitarian Aid Under Attack: Settler Violence in the West Bank Intensifies

by Faruk Imamovic
Settler Violence Disrupts Aid to Gaza Amid Growing Humanitarian Crisis
© Getty Images/Amir Levy

In recent weeks, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has reached alarming levels. The situation, already dire due to years of blockade and conflict, has been exacerbated by a new wave of violence: radical Israeli settlers are targeting aid trucks traveling through the West Bank. These attacks are severely disrupting the delivery of essential supplies to Gaza, where millions are teetering on the brink of famine.

Humanitarian groups have issued urgent warnings as Gaza's conditions deteriorate. Aid convoys attempting to bring food and medical supplies are increasingly intercepted by settler groups. These groups, often composed of young extremists, have set up checkpoints, interrogated drivers, and in many instances, attacked the vehicles and their cargo.

Organized Attacks on Aid Convoys

The settlers' actions are not random; they are meticulously organized through publicly accessible WhatsApp groups. Members use these platforms to share real-time updates and photos of suspected aid trucks. Often, they act on tips allegedly provided by Israeli soldiers and police. One striking example of this coordination involved users tracking a flatbed truck loaded with sugar through a group with over 800 members.

“The truck supplying Hamas stopped in front of Evyatar!” announced Yosef de Bresser, a prominent figure in the “We Won’t Forget” movement. This group has orchestrated numerous protests and blockades against aid trucks, frequently leading to violent outcomes. On this particular day, the flatbed truck was ransacked, and its contents were strewn across the road. De Bresser and his followers justified their actions by claiming the truck was destined for Gaza, despite the waybills not indicating a specific destination.

Fahed Arar, the owner of the sugar cargo, countered these claims, stating that the goods were intended for Salfit, a Palestinian town in the West Bank. His driver escaped unharmed, but the Israeli military prevented him from reloading the goods. Instead, the soldiers used a bulldozer to destroy the sacks, resulting in a loss of $30,000. “The attack happened in front of the army,” Arar noted, emphasizing the soldiers' inaction.

Israeli Authorities' Response and International Repercussions

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) issued a general statement asserting that their role is to disperse confrontations between Israelis and Palestinians and assist until the police arrive. However, they did not comment on specific incidents. The Israel Police, responsible for enforcing the law when crimes are committed by Israeli citizens, has largely remained silent.

This ongoing violence and vandalism, occurring with near-total impunity, raises serious concerns about the Israeli security forces' willingness to restrain extremist settlers and protect Palestinians. It also casts doubt on the Israeli government’s commitment to ensuring that aid reaches Gaza, where the humanitarian situation is rapidly worsening.

Protestors Block Humanitarian Aid To Gaza From Israel
Protestors Block Humanitarian Aid To Gaza From Israel© Getty Images/Amir Levy

In response to international pressure, Israel recently opened the Tarqumiyah crossing in the West Bank for aid trucks traveling to Gaza from Jordan. However, these routes pass through areas where settler violence has surged. Jake Sullivan, the White House’s national security adviser, condemned the targeting of aid trucks as “a total outrage,” and the Biden administration is considering sanctions against those involved in the attacks.

Ground-Level Realities and Increasing Risks

Humanitarian organizations describe Gaza’s current situation as its darkest hour. The United Nations reports that more than a million Palestinians have been displaced this month following Israel’s assault on Rafah and the closure of Gaza’s most critical land crossing for aid. The World Food Program recently declared that the northern part of Gaza is experiencing a full-blown famine, with the crisis spreading south.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has also entered the scene, with its chief prosecutor seeking arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza, including using starvation as a method of warfare. Both leaders have dismissed these charges as politically motivated.

Despite the opening of the Tarqumiyah crossing on May 13, one of the first aid convoys from Jordan was immediately attacked by Israeli protesters. Protesters threw boxes of food onto the ground, stomped on them, and set several trucks on fire. Rachel Touitou, spokeswoman for Tzav 9, a group active in blocking aid trucks since January, stated that they never called on people to take the law into their own hands but that their activities would continue because it is in their DNA.

Settler Violence and Its Consequences

De Bresser, a leader in the anti-aid movement, denies responsibility for burning trucks but does not condemn the violence. “I’m happy for every truck that doesn’t enter Gaza, and I’m also happy to see it catch fire,” he said. His group, We Won’t Forget, supports dismantling trucks and acts on inside information, including tips from transport workers, police officers, and soldiers opposed to sending supplies to Gaza.

A recent incident on May 17 highlighted the Israeli authorities’ lenient approach to enforcement. About two dozen far-right youths set up a makeshift blockade at Tarqumiyah, with soldiers and police officers driving past without intervening. As dawn broke, a 12-year-old boy threatened an approaching truck with a brick, forcing it to reverse. Other vehicles turned around at the sight of the group. Police eventually asked the demonstrators to take down the barricade, but they continued to linger. One police officer even joined them in prayer.

Efforts to protect aid trucks have increased, with left-wing counterdemonstrators forming a “humanitarian guard” at the crossing, pressuring police to ensure its operation. Some convoys from Jordan now travel under police escort, but commercial trucks remain vulnerable.