B’Tselem: Settlers set fire to Palestinians’ fields, threw rocks at them
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B’Tselem: Settlers set fire to Palestinians’ fields, threw rocks at them

Rights group accuses military of standing to the side while Israelis attack Palestinian village in northern West Bank

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

A fire apparently started by an Israeli settler outside the Palestinian village of Burin in the northern West Bank on May 17, 2019. (B'tselem)
A fire apparently started by an Israeli settler outside the Palestinian village of Burin in the northern West Bank on May 17, 2019. (B'tselem)

A group of masked settlers set fire to fields outside two Palestinian villages in the northern West Bank last Friday afternoon, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

Video footage released by the left-leaning group shows two Israeli men — one of them armed with a Tavor assault rifle — entering grasslands, crouching down and walking away. Moments later, flames can be seen in the area where they’d been standing.

In addition, groups of male settlers can be seen throwing rocks at Palestinians’ homes near the villages of Burin and Asirah al-Qibliyah, south of the city of Nablus.

B’Tselem accused the military of failing to stop the Israeli men from carrying out these attacks and preventing the Palestinian residents of the area from extinguishing the flames.

According to the group, one Israeli man also fired his gun into the air in an area that is guarded by a military outpost.

“Soldiers who were standing next to [the settlers] did not arrest them and preventing the Palestinians from reaching their burning lands,” B’Tselem said.

The group accused the military of providing “almost total immunity” to settlers, noting that none of them were interrogated or arrested.

“The army even accused the Palestinians of setting the fires near Asirah al-Qibliyah,” B’Tselem said.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed some aspects of the incident.

“In addition to the fires, some 20 settlers went down to the outskirts of Asirah al-Qibliyah and began throwing rocks,” the army said in a statement.

“Troops worked in the area to prevent clashes, and the gathering was dispersed after a short time.”

The military also confirmed that no arrests were made in connection with the Israeli men starting fires or throwing rocks, but would not immediately comment on the reasons for this.

The IDF said there were no injuries reported in the clashes.

The incident occurred some 400 meters from Burin and approximately a kilometer away from the Givat Ronen outpost.

According to B’Tselem, after a while, the settlers worked to put out the fires that they started “apparently from a fear that it would spread in the direction of their outpost.”

The IDF said it also assisted in extinguishing the blazes.

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