Settlers attack Palestinians following outpost evacuation
By Anshel Pfeffer and Jack Khoury • Haaretz
Israeli settlers on horseback set fire on Monday to at least 1,500 Palestinian-owned olive trees in the West Bank as others stoned cars, a Palestinian security official said.
The incident occurred hours after security forces razed a number of structures built in unauthorized outposts in the West Bank.
Two Palestinian motorists were lightly wounded and five vehicles damaged near the settlement of Yitzhar, outside the Palestinian town of Nablus, said the official, Ghassan Daglas.
He said 10 settlers riding horses and carrying torches set fire to between 1,500 and 2,000 olive trees. Olives are an important cash crop for Palestinians, who have complained of frequent attacks on their groves by settlers.
The violence is part of a "price tag" policy in which settlers retaliate to the outpost removals by harassing local Palestinians.
Police accompanied by Civil Administration officials set out Monday morning to evacuate illegal structures in three unauthorized outposts in the West Bank. The forces demolished two makeshift homes in the Adei Ad outpost and then moved on to Nofei Yarden and Mitzpe Danny.
The police set out only to evacuate illegal structures that were erected in the recent past, not to evacuate the outposts themselves.
Following the evacuation, settlers blocked the main Hawara artery leading to the IDF's headquarters in the northern West Bank.
Palestinians near Nablus accused the IDF of showing too much lenience toward the settlers. They said the settlers set fire to dozens of dunams of privately-owned land and caused damage to a number of vehicles.
"The settlers are being encouraged by the Netanyahu government," said Rasan Darles, a Palestinian official. The settlers, meanwhile, accused the civil administration of "vengeful motives."
"After residents of Adei Ad filed a complaint against a civil administration official for attempted theft. After the official was questioned by police, the civil administration decided to take revenge and destroy the structure," said the Binyamin regional council in the West Bank.
"We are dealing with Civil Administration officials who display heroism against caravans belonging to Jews yet show cowardice and weakness in the knees when dealing with Arab villas and buildings that are built illegally," the Binyamin council said.
"The destruction in Nofei Yarden is also an act of revenge over the complaint that was filed to the police commissioner following the scandalous arrival to the scene of police officers together with seven Arabs a week-and-a-half ago," the settler council said. "Afterwards, there was an attempt to infiltrate the settlement. This was the direct result of the visit by Arabs on that day. As you may recall, MK Uri Ariel raised the subject in the Knesset and now the civil administration and the police are doling out their revenge."
Earlier on Monday, a Palestinian died in an Israeli hospital of gunshot wounds suffered on Sunday along the border with the Gaza Strip after he refused to stop when ordered to do so by an Israeli patrol, a hospital spokeswoman and the army said.