Israeli human rights lawyer attacked while documenting settler raid on Gaza aid convoy

Food shortage continues in Gaza amid Israel’s ongoing offensive in Rafah and the shutdown of the two main border crossings in the south.

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SOURCEDemocracy Now!

Aid agencies are running out of food in southern Gaza amid Israel’s ongoing offensive in Rafah and the shutdown of the two main border crossings in the south. Some 1.1 million Palestinians are on the brink of starvation, according to the United Nations, while a “full-blown famine” is taking place in the north. Meanwhile, some Israelis have been blocking aid from reaching the Gaza border, including a violent attack on trucks carrying humanitarian relief through the occupied West Bank earlier this week, when settlers threw food packages on the ground and set fire to the vehicles at the Tarqumiyah checkpoint near Hebron. “They did whatever they want,” says Israeli lawyer and peace activist Sapir Sluzker Amran, who documented the attack on the aid convoy. She says Israeli soldiers appeared to be working with the settlers, refusing to intervene. “They were just standing aside like there is nothing that they can do, like it’s normal, what’s happening.”

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Aid agencies are running out of food in southern Gaza amid Israel’s ongoing offensive in Rafah. The World Food Programme says it’s run out of stocks in Rafah and has suspended food aid distributions there for several days. No food has entered the two main border crossings in southern Gaza for more than a week, since the Israeli assault on Rafah began and Israeli forces seized control of and closed the border crossing with Egypt. Some 1.1 million Palestinians are on the brink of starvation, according to the UN, while a full-blown famine is taking place in the north. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said today, quote, “The impact is devastating for over 2 million people.”

AMY GOODMAN: This comes just days after Israeli settlers blocked aid trucks headed to Gaza through the occupied West Bank from Jordan. Footage of the incident shows settlers raiding the aid trucks, throwing food into the road and setting fire to vehicles at the Tarqumiyah checkpoint near Hebron in the occupied West Bank. Palestinian truck drivers say they fear for their lives after the attack.

ADEL AMER: [translated] We went to the checkpoint, and after the check, we were surprised to see settlers on the roundabout of the checkpoint. They damaged the cars. They tore the tires off the trucks. They threw the contents of the truck on the ground. We gathered some of the products and sent some of those products on to a bulldozer and sent them to sheep farms. Around 15 trucks were damaged. Their haul was damaged. Windows of the trucks were broken. Some drivers were beaten. Some of the products were thrown away, and the whole loss for Hebron is around $2 million.

AMY GOODMAN: At a White House press briefing Monday, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan was asked by reporters about the attack on the aid convoy.

JAKE SULLIVAN: It is a total outrage that there are people who are attacking and looting these convoys coming from Jordan, going to Gaza to deliver humanitarian assistance. We are looking at the tools that we have to respond to this, and we are also raising our concerns at the highest level of the Israeli government. And it’s something that we make no bones about. This is completely and utterly unacceptable behavior.

AMY GOODMAN: The attack on the aid convoy was the culmination of weeks of Israeli settlers attempting to block aid trucks from reaching Gaza.

For more, we’re going to Tel Aviv to speak with Sapir Sluzker Amran, an Israeli human rights lawyer and peace activist who documented the attack on the aid convoy right near Hebron. She’s the co-director of Breaking Walls, an intersectional feminist grassroots movement.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Sapir. It’s so good to have you with us. If you can describe exactly what took place, how you ended up there when the Israeli settlers attacked the aid convoy, and what exactly they did to the convoy and to you?

SAPIR SLUZKER AMRAN: Thanks, and thank you so much for having me. Before we get into details, just to say from Tel Aviv that we are calling for ceasefire and safe return of the hostages, and hope to see this war ending as soon as possible and not seeing another one.

So, I came on Monday. It was after a few months where they’re organizing those kinds of actions, those looting actions. Settlers and their supporters, they are organizing in those WhatsApp groups, getting notifications from inside information, actually, to know where the trucks are going and coming from, and then trying to block them or to loot and destroy the entire food on the trucks. And when I came on Monday, it was to — I wasn’t sure. It was trying to document — it was after seeing those footages, those videos that they published a few months now, trying to organize groups. But people were afraid. And they should be afraid, because they’re coming with guns and knives and axes even. And the police and the IDF is totally on their side and not protecting us. But when I was there, I came to document and to understand a bit what’s going on.

And then, after they had this, like, first round of looting the convoy there, they started to go to another crossing in order to see if there was more trucks there, because they got an inside information again that there might be other trucks a few minutes’ drive from that crossing. I was there with another activist, and we went to the drivers of the trucks to see if we can help. And they were very surprised. They didn’t understand why there were Jewish people, Israelis, that want to help them. It took them a minute to understand that we are Arabs, but not Palestinians, we are Arab Jews, and we are with them. So, we started to pack everything again on one of the trucks. And we almost finished, and then they came back, more people — I think there were around few dozens, and then it became almost 150 people. At that time, they did whatever they want.

So, I want to be specific. This event, I got a message on WhatsApp that this event’s starting, and they’re asking people to come around 9:30 in the morning. They were there on their way. So they were there at 10 a.m. I came at 12:00. I left, though, for my own safety. Around 3 p.m., there were dozens of people, and people kept coming. So, it happened for hours. There were a few soldiers there without a supervisor. They didn’t know what to do. They were just going around, maybe two policemen, and that’s it. And what the settlers did is tearing up the entire food that was there. There were bags of rice, bags of sugar and instant noodles in bags. And they did it in a way that we cannot repair it. They did it in a way that they were tearing everything down, jumping on the instant noodles so we cannot save it. And, yeah, that was the situation.

We saw a lot of families there. I think that the youngest person that was there was maybe 3 years old, a kid with his father, like it was like a fun day, a festival day, and more teenagers that were there. And they did whatever they want. They laughed, they enjoyed, and they said it was the best action that we had ’til now. It was in Tarqumiyah crossing. And I think many came because it’s in the area of the settlers, so it was very easy for them just to be first and to hold those trucks.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, Sapir, could you talk about what the settlers did specifically to you, what happened to you? And then explain who the settlers are and what their justification is for doing that, for disrupting the aid convoys and destroying all the aid. They say that the aid is helping Hamas, and they want to obstruct its delivery until the hostages are released. Who are the settlers? And do they have any connection to the government?

SAPIR SLUZKER AMRAN: Yeah. So, I think, just to say, I’m not the story here. Yes, I will share that I was injured. One of the settlers — so, I was — I’m not sure how, but I couldn’t stand aside when I saw them running again, going on the trucks with sugar bags, going on the trucks with their knives and weapons and axes and all kinds of sharp objects and tearing down everything. And I couldn’t. And I started to run towards them and document it and tell them, “Please, stop. Stop. What are you doing? This is food. This is food. Like, you have to understand, inside of ’48, inside Israel, we have more than 2 million people that are under the poverty line. This is food. We have, an hour from now, people that are hungry. They can be your family that are hungry an hour from here.” And they didn’t care about it.

So I went on the truck and tried to stop them. And I called and I screamed on the IDF. There were like very young soldiers. I told them, “Come! Come and help me! This is your role! This is not my role! Come and help me! I can’t do it on my own!” And my friend was documenting it and trying also to talk with them and trying to stop them while they were doing it. And they tried to prevent her to photograph. And she managed to do it anyway.

So, when I was on the truck, yeah, one of the settlers, in front of an IDF that was right next to us, he kind of slapped me extremely hard, and then he was trying to escape. The police was there. The police took him. I told them, “I want to press charges.” They said, “No,” and they hid him so I couldn’t document him, even though I have his photo and the video. And then, after 10 minutes, he came back, like nothing was happened. So they took him only to protect him, not for something else.

And I was the only one that the government, that the IDF, the police, asked for to see an ID. All that time, they didn’t ask anyone from them, from the settlers, to get out of this area, that it was like a parking lot — only us, only the two of us, just the two of us. And they were just sitting there or standing there while I was telling them, “You’re standing right here. You see someone with a knife. That person, a teenager, took a knife at me.” I told them, “You see him. At least take the knife. At least take the knife so, like, he won’t attack me.” And they didn’t care about it. They were just standing aside like there is nothing that they can do, like it’s normal, what’s happening.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Sapir, we only have a few minutes left —

SAPIR SLUZKER AMRAN: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: — and we want to know: Who are these Israeli settlers? Who are the people that destroyed the aid truck?

SAPIR SLUZKER AMRAN: Yeah, so, those are the people, settlers, that are, you know, living in the settlements. They’re Orthodox Jews. They’re from the national Zionist Jewish stream, Zionist stream. They have many supporters in government. They are the government. It’s not that they’re supporters.

And we know that yesterday — I want to say something like that right now I can show you — I can add you right now, Amy, to a WhatsApp group, because they’re organizing right now to do it again. So, they have this information. No one is trying to stop them. I think maybe it’s not clear that nothing has changed from Monday. They are still doing it. I don’t know what is showing on the international media, what the Israeli government is publishing. But they are doing it right now, with their names, with their numbers, and they don’t care about presenting even theirselves and documenting theirselves, because they know that nothing is going to happen to them, no circumstances, no objects, and nothing will happen at all.

So, they are connected to the government. We know that some of them are working with the government. We know that some of them — I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re funded from the government. We have MKs, members of the parliament, the Israeli parliament, that are supporting it and coming to those actions. We have someone that is a CEO of a right-wing organization that just got, a few months ago got — he has a photo with one of the MKs, the chairman of the Knesset, giving him a diploma to thank him for his service to Israel. OK? So, they are — last week, it was the mayor of one of the big cities in the south of Israel. They are the blood, and they are part of it. What you are doing is just, we can call it, privatization, privatization of the violence, which means that the government know. They hide because of the U.S. They have to pretend that they are obeying international law. But, in fact, they don’t want to. So they have these kids, they have these settlers, they have their supporters, that they are part of their political parties, and also they’re also funding them, to tell them, “Go to this crossing and handle it.”

AMY GOODMAN: Sapir —

SAPIR SLUZKER AMRAN: So, that’s why the police is not intervening, because the police belongs to Ben-Gvir and those kinds of people. So, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Sapir Sluzker Amran, I want to thank you so much for being with us, Israeli human rights lawyer and peace activist, who went to the Tarqumiyah crossing in Hebron to document the attack on a Gaza-bound aid convoy by Israeli settlers. She’s also the co-director of Breaking Walls, an intersectional feminist grassroots movement.

We had this in The Times of Israel: Israeli extremists mistook, on Wednesday, two days after the attack on the convoy she described — they mistook a regular commercial truck traveling in the West Bank for a convoy carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza and attacked the vehicle. The vigilantes set a fire in the road, dumped the truck’s contents onto the pavement and assaulted the Palestinian driver. Video from the scene showed the driver lying on the street bloodied.

When we come back, we’ll talk with Human Rights Watch about their new report on Israeli forces attacking humanitarian aid convoys in Gaza. The group has also documented Russian forces executing surrendering Ukrainian soldiers. We’ll go to Kyiv to speak with the HRW representative, and we’ll look at ethnic cleansing in Sudan. Back in 20 seconds.

AMY GOODMAN: Voices of some the hundred university professors and faculty and their allies from higher education institutions across New York, gathering yesterday at Grand Central Station during rush hour to sing and read out a joint letter from faculty across a number of schools calling for an end to genocide in Gaza.

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