Beita, West Bank (CNN)A small boy sits on a hillside in the occupied West Bank. Like the adults around him, he trains a green laser beam on a group of prefabricated housing units on a hilltop a few hundred meters away. It is an act of defiance.
Palestinians describe fight against a West Bank settlement as an existential battle. Jewish settlers say the same
The buildings had been abandoned earlier in the day by Jewish settlers following an agreement they reached with the government, but before they left, they erected a huge metal Star of David, and planted a large Israeli flag, as if to say, "We will be back."
For Palestinians from the town of Beita, exclamations of victory were ironic. "It's free now!" a young man shouted, laughing.
The campaign against the settlement of Givat Evyatar had been going on for two months when the settlers left. The locals call their protest Irbak al Layli, usually translated as "night confusion" -- disruption techniques taken from Gaza. The Israeli army calls them violent riots. It is the latest iteration of the conflict and it coincides with confrontations in Jerusalem and Gaza, as well as a renewed sense of contest among Palestinians over who leads their resistance.
"We have been coming every day for the last two months," says Ahmad. "We are here to disturb the settlers, so they leave, and we get our land back."
Ahmad is hammering an iron bar against an empty oil drum with all his might, while his young friends, with rocks in their hands, are beating the drum in rhythm.
Earlier, before nightfall, hundreds of young men armed with rocks and slingshots, and Molotov cocktails, had done battle with the Israeli army among olive trees and half-finished buildings. Ambulances are stationed on site.
"We have to tell them with this stone that this land is ours, not theirs," a 25-year-old man says, as he wraps his scarf tightly around his face to conceal his identity.
"Our souls are for this land. We will sacrifice our souls to set this land free. And that's it. Easy peasy!"
Since the beginning of May, Israeli soldiers using live ammunition have killed four people here, and seriously wounded dozens of others, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent (PRC).
One man shows CNN a video he and his friends made to memorialize his 16-year old cousin Mohammed Hamayel, shot dead two months ago. "Our brave Beita martyr, you rest, and we will continue resisting and struggling," voices on the clip sing.
Another man, Tariq Hamayel, wears a T-shirt bearing a picture of his brother Zakaria, a schoolteacher. The 25-year-old had been burning tires down the hill from the settlers when he was shot as he recited the sunset prayer, Hamayel says.
The Israeli army, which says dozens of its soldiers have been injured by rocks, defends its use of live ammunition, maintaining it is only ever used as a last resort. An army official told CNN that soldiers were not following a shoot-to-kill policy. But the official was clear about the fact the army targets what it calls "main inciters" -- those people it says are instigating or leading the protests.
If non-lethal force, like tear gas or rubber bullets, have failed to "lower the flame," as the army puts it, then live ammunition can be used against the legs of the "main inciter" in order to "minimize the violence that could be happening if it gets out of hand." Any use of live ammunition will have gone through a thorough process of authorization by superiors, the army adds.
Israeli lawyer Michael Sfard -- who has represented human rights groups contesting the legality of the use of lethal force against Palestinian demonstrators -- believes this is illegal under international law, which allows for the use of potentially lethal force against civilians only if they are posing an imminent serious threat to life or limb.
Avner Gvaryahu, executive director of Breaking the Silence, an organization that collects testimony from Israeli soldiers about their time in the army, goes further. "The Israeli military sees any Palestinian protest as illegitimate, regardless of what happens in it," he says. The use of lethal force "is a message that shows Palestinians we will not accept any disturbance of the peace."
The Israeli army official insisted the rules of engagement its soldiers follow are permissible under international law.
Givat Evyatar sits on a hilltop known locally as Jabal Subeih. The site is seen as strategic, a high point along a corridor linking Tel Aviv to the Jordan Valley. That is important for the settler movement, whose ultimate aim is the annexation of as much of the West Bank -- land captured by Israel during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War -- as possible. Isolating Palestinian communities from one another helps in that goal.
Violent memory and ideology provide another motivation. In common with several other settlements in the West Bank, the name commemorates a death, that of Evyatar Borovsky, an Israeli stabbed to death at a nearby traffic junction eight years ago.
After a number of earlier attempts to establish a permanent community there, the impetus to try again in May followed another death in a shooting attack at the same junction. Amid heightened