A 64-year-old American citizen was attacked last Tuesday by a group of masked settlers in the South Hebron Hills of the occupied West Bank. Cassandra Auren, a peace activist from Wisconsin, was standing with an Italian activist on land that belongs to the residents of the Palestinian village Tuba, when a group of settlers from a nearby outpost, Havat Ma’on, ran toward them. Auren said that one of the attackers stood behind her, and as she was turning to face him, he hit her in the head with a weapon that she described as looking “like a baseball bat.” She immediately passed out from the blow and was hospitalized with a fractured skull and internal bleeding in her head.
Tuba is an unrecognized village in the Masafer Yatta region of the South Hebron Hills. Like other villages in the area, it is slated for demolition, and its residents, who suffer routinely from harassment by settlers and soldiers, are prevented from building or using infrastructure. Long before the demolition and expulsion orders were issued, and green lit by the Supreme Court, residents were routinely denied building permits and any ability to develop the hamlet. Residents also report that, in recent weeks, settlers from Havat Ma’on have been coming to the village to graze their sheep on Palestinian land, destroying the village crops.
Auren said she came to Masafar Yetta out of a sense of responsibility. “[The United States] sends so much support money to Israel,” she explained, “but without knowing how it is being used to violently push Palestinians from their land. This is money that the U.S. gives with no parameters.”
Auren contacted the U.S. Embassy about the incident, which confirmed to +972 that an American citizen had been attacked near Tuba, and that the Embassy was providing her with assistance. “These settlers come and hit a 64-year-old woman from Wisconsin with a big bat. Who does that?” she said during our conversation. “And in a place where people live, so close to the village. If this had been my home, [it would be as if the attack was] occurring in my driveway. It’s shocking to me that that kind of violence happens so close to where someone lives. Children have to travel that exact path in order to get to their school.”
“I have tended to this land with my family ever since I was a child,” said Ali Awad, a local resident, +972 contributor, and one of the victims of the settler attacks. “This is my grandfather’s land. We have never faced anything like this. Suddenly these settlers are coming. They are a group of shepherds from Havat Ma’on who for three weeks have been coming in every day with their flock to destroy our agriculture.”
Israeli authorities have yet to make any arrests for the assault. A police spokesperson told +972 that the police opened an investigation, which is still ongoing. According to Yesh Din, an anti-occupation organization that monitors settler violence in the West Bank, between 2005-2022, police closed 92 percent of cases of settler attacks on Palestinians without filing any indictments.
Correction: An original version of this article used a misspelling of Cassandra Auren’s last name.
This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.