Israeli settlers killed a minimum of 10 Palestinians and set fire to dozens of homes in the occupied West Bank during 2023, marking it as the “most violent” year on record for settler attacks, according to a report from the Israeli watchdog Yesh Din. The attacks escalated, particularly following Hamas’s October 7 assaults on Israel. Yesh Din reported that a significant number of West Bank attacks were carried out by a large group of Israeli settlers.
“In 2023, settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank reached unprecedented levels, marked by both the highest number of incidents and increased severity,” according to the Israeli watchdog Yesh Din. The West Bank, under Israeli military occupation since the 1967 Six-Day War, witnessed escalated tensions, particularly following the conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Approximately 490,000 settlers reside among the three million Palestinians in the West Bank, occupying settlements considered illegal under international law. Yesh Din, monitoring settler violence since 2006, reported a significant surge in violence during the first two months after October 7. This period saw 242 documented settler violence incidents, with hundreds of Israelis raiding Palestinian villages, resulting in the destruction of numerous homes and vehicles.
Since the onset of the Gaza war, Israeli security forces and settlers have reportedly killed a minimum of 317 Palestinians in the West Bank, as reported by the Palestinian health ministry based in Ramallah.
Contrary to assertions by the military and police of a decline in settler violence, Yesh Din contested these claims, arguing that the decrease in reported incidents merely reflected a reduction in complaints filed with Israeli authorities. The watchdog noted an increasing “lack of trust” among Palestinians in the West Bank toward Israeli law enforcement since the current right-wing government assumed power in December 2022.
Accusing the Israeli government of endorsing settler violence, Yesh Din pointed to the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which includes settlers and ultra-nationalist hardliners.
In an effort to curb the surge in violence, the United States recently announced its refusal to grant visas to extremist Israeli settlers who engage in attacks against Palestinians.
Meanwhile, according to the Shin Bet security agency, Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank have resulted in the death of at least 41 people in 2023.