2 Palestinian villages in the West Bank vandalized in apparent hate crimes

Cars damaged, kindergarten daubed with graffiti following clash between police, settlers at nearby outpost

Graffiti in a quarry between two Palestinian villages close to the settlement of Yitzhar, reading "demolition will lead to destruction," on Thursday, August 13, 2020 (Credit: Urif Local Council)
Graffiti in a quarry between two Palestinian villages close to the settlement of Yitzhar, reading "demolition will lead to destruction," on Thursday, August 13, 2020 (Credit: Urif Local Council)

Residents of two Palestinian villages on Thursday morning found damaged vehicles and Hebrew-language slogans graffitied on the wall of a kindergarten, following apparent hate crimes overnight, according to the Yesh Din rights group.

Around midnight, a number of residents of Asira al Kabalia reportedly discovered that a tractor located in the quarry between their village and a neighboring village, Urif, had been set alight, causing heavy damage, Yesh Din said.

Photos from the scene published by the Urif local council showed a burnt tractor and graffiti saying, “Demolition will bring destruction.”

Identifying the village as Urif, Israel Police said Thursday morning that police and the Israel Defense Forces were preparing to investigate the incident.

Both villages border Yitzhar, a settlement which has seen clashes with both police and Palestinians in recent days. Clashes with a group of ultra-nationalist “hilltop youth” settlers during the demolition of illegal structures at an outpost bordering Yitzhar on Wednesday led to one Border Police officer being injured.

Settlers also threw stones at Palestinians in two separate incidents, including at six Palestinians working on their land in the Hawara village. One Palestinian was injured after being struck by a rock and was taken to a local medical clinic for treatment.

In a separate alleged “price tag” attack, a term coined by ultra-nationalists to refer to the supposed “price” Palestinians will pay when the Israeli government demolishes illegal settler structures, Palestinian cars in Yasouf, in Salfit governorate, had their tires slashed and a kindergarten in the village had Hebrew-language graffiti sprayed on its walls.

Recent months have seen a surge in racist attacks against Palestinians and their property allegedly by far-right settlers, according to Yesh Din.

While most far-right attacks have targeted homes, businesses, agricultural holdings and cars, there have also been attacks on mosques in Palestinian towns and Arab Israeli communities. In late July, arsonists reportedly burned a mosque in al-Bireh, outside of Ramallah, and graffitied Hebrew slogans at the scene.

The Yesh Din rights group said there was a particularly violent three-month period from March through May during which Palestinian villages were targeted 44 times in so-called price tag attacks, apparently by extremist settlers.

Of those cases, 21 involved violence against Palestinians while the remainder of the attacks targeted property, according to Yesh Din.

Fourteen of the incidents took place in the Nablus area of the northern West Bank, 10 were documented in the Ramallah area of the central West Bank and eight were reported in the Hebron area of the southern West Bank.

Despite dozens of hate crimes targeting Palestinians and their property over the past year, arrests of suspects have been exceedingly rare.

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