Page last updated at 18:35 GMT, Thursday, 12 June 2008 19:35 UK

'Jewish settler attack' on film

By Tim Franks
BBC News, Jerusalem


Footage of West Bank attack

Footage from a video camera handed out by an Israeli human rights group appears to show Jewish settlers beating up Palestinians in the West Bank.

An elderly shepherd, his wife and a nephew said they were attacked by four masked men for allowing their animals to graze near the settlement of Susia.

The rights group, B'Tselem, said the cameras were provided to enable Palestinians to get proof of attacks.

A spokesman for the Israeli police said that an investigation was under way.

So far, no-one has been arrested.

Baseball bats

For the past year, B'Tselem has handed out video cameras to Palestinians as part of its "Shooting Back" project.

Video of alleged attack near Susia (08 June 2008) (Footage courtesy of B'Tselem)
The Palestinians said they were attacked after refusing to move

The BBC has been given exclusive access to the footage of this particular attack, which happened earlier this week. The date and time on the camera footage shows that it is Sunday afternoon.

Over the brow of the hill walk four masked men holding baseball bats. To the right of the screen, in the foreground, stands a 58-year-old Palestinian woman.

Thamam al-Nawaja has been herding her goats close to the Jewish settlement of Susia, near Hebron in the southern West Bank.

Within a few seconds, she, along with her 70-year-old husband and one of her nephews, will be beaten up.

As the first blows land, the woman filming - the daughter-in-law of the elderly couple - drops the camera and runs for help.

'Ten-minute warning'

Mrs Nawaja spent three days in hospital after the attack.

Returning to the small Palestinian encampment close to the red-roofed houses of Susia, she stepped slowly and unsteadily out of the minibus.

Thamam al-Nawaja returns to her village following the attack
They don't want us to stay on our land, but we won't leave - we'll die here
Thamam al-Nawaja

A dark stain showed through the white gauze covering her broken right arm. Her veil was lifted gingerly away from her lined face. A bloodshot eye and intersection of scars revealed a fractured left cheek.

"The settlers gave us a 10-minute warning to clear off from the land," she told me, her voice a tired, cracked whisper.

She and her husband had stood their ground. It is at this point that her voice grows louder.

"They don't want us to stay on our land. But we won't leave. We'll die here. It's ours," she added.

Indeed, the rest of the world regards Jewish settlements in the West Bank such as Susia, as illegal, built on occupied territory.

Those settlements have been a large part of the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis for the last 41 years. The daily confrontation is not often caught on camera. That, now, is beginning to change.

Video proof

The attack near Susia was filmed with one of 100 video cameras that B'Tselem has handed out to Palestinians in the region.

When they have the camera, they have proof that something happened - they now have something they can work with, to use as a weapon
Oren Yakobovich

The thinking behind the project is that when trouble flares, rather than just giving a statement to the Israeli police or army, video carries much more weight.

"The difference is amazing," says Oren Yakobovich, who leads the Shooting Back project.

"When they have the camera, they have proof that something happened. They now have something they can work with, to use as a weapon."

We asked a spokesman from the Susia settlement for a comment on Sunday's incident. He declined.

Inside one of the tents belonging to the Palestinians living near Susia, we watched the footage of the aftermath of the attack - the victims slumped by the roadside, bloodied, waiting for an ambulance.

The bright, wide eyes of the children shone with the light of the small television screen.

Violence against Jews as well as Palestinians has long scarred this place. Video may now may be giving us a new and raw view.

But for most people here, the only answer - a political deal - remains out of sight.

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