Mel Frykberg, March 27, 2023
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Courtesy Cassandra AurenAn American senior citizen allegedly suffered a potentially fatal attack in the West Bank as part of a surge in violence that has gripped the Israeli-occupied region since Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power at the head of an extreme right-wing coalition.
Local residents told The Daily Beast that Israeli settlers—who are trying to take over Palestinian land—have been emboldened by the radical rhetoric and extremist policies promoted by the new government. Villagers say attacks have become a daily hazard and the Israeli police and military have done little to protect them.
An American mother of two from Wisconsin was caught up in the violence this month. Cassandra Auren, 65, was hospitalized for two days and required six stitches after she suffered a fractured skull and internal bleeding. She told The Daily Beast that she was struck on the head by an Israeli settler with a long wooden stick as she was visiting the village of Tuba in the Massafer Yatta area south of Hebron.
“The attack by the male settler, who had a small child with him, took me totally by surprise as there was no prior confrontation and no provocation on my part. It all happened so fast I had no time to think about whether my life was in danger,” said Auren, a residential carpenter who traveled to the region as a peace activist.
In a video seen by The Daily Beast, another settler armed with a metal pole chased Auren and an Italian woman who was with her.
The doctor’s report said there was a fracture and external bleeding at the site of the trauma. The CT scan showed right subdural hematoma, 3mm in thickness. And the doctor reported decreased hearing in her left ear and said that she continues to suffer from severe headaches. “When I came around my head was painful and I was dizzy.”
A video frame grab shows an Israeli settler chasing Auren.
Although the incident has shaken her badly she has continued to visit the village and remains angry that this behavior often goes unreported.
“I now understand the fear that Palestinians feel all the time, especially the women and children, because at night I also get afraid that the settlers might attack again,” said Auren.
The ancient Hebron hills—with their winding roads that snake around orchards and agricultural fields—have an unmistakable rugged beauty. Generations of Palestinians living in villages and hamlets that dot the territory have earned their living from the land here for hundreds of years. But the unspoilt views can be deceptive—they are hiding a dark side.
Ali Awad, from the village of Tuba in Massafer Yatta, told The Daily Beast that his family and all the other residents are being threatened with expulsion but their livelihoods would be destroyed and they have nowhere else to go.
“Settlers have become emboldened in the last few months and carry out nearly daily attacks on the villages. And if we complain to the police or army when they arrive, we are arrested and told that the land no longer belongs to us and that we have to leave the land,” Awad said.
Cassandra Auren’s head injury.
Last Thursday, he said a Palestinian who confronted a settler on his land was bitten in the face and teargassed while the Israeli army stood by, with residents accusing the settlers of a deliberate policy of intimidation to drive them off their land.
The daily settler attacks have been an ongoing problem for years but with Israel’s new extreme right-wing government their behavior has been given the green light.
As the settlers expropriate more and more land, Palestinian children who used to travel to school in the nearby hamlet of At-Tuwani have been forced to take circuitous routes, accompanied by an Israeli military escort to avoid settlers from the nearby Israeli outpost of Havat Maon attacking them.
“Sometimes the Israeli soldiers show up and sometimes they don’t, it depends on their mood,” said Awad, a local journalist.
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