Clashes reported in West Bank between Palestinians, settlers
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Clashes reported in West Bank between Palestinians, settlers

Rights group says Israelis burned fields, damaged homes and buildings in village of Asira al-Qibliya; Yitzhar settlers blame Palestinians for fires

A photo from the Yesh Din rights group shows what it says are Israeli settlers by a fire they started near the northern West Bank village of Asira al-Qibliya on May 17, 2019. (Yesh Din)
A photo from the Yesh Din rights group shows what it says are Israeli settlers by a fire they started near the northern West Bank village of Asira al-Qibliya on May 17, 2019. (Yesh Din)

Israeli settlers and Palestinians reportedly clashed in the northern West Bank on Friday, with a rights group saying the Israelis damaged buildings and set fire to fields in a Palestinian village.

According to Yesh Din, after a fire broke out between the villages of Urif and Asira al-Qibliya, dozens of Israelis arrived from the nearby settlement of Yitzhar accompanied by soldiers and began throwing rocks at homes on the outskirts of the latter community.

The group said the settlers also set alight a number of fields, which damaged several homes. It said video taken by local Palestinians appeared to show the soldiers standing by and not intervening during the incident.

A spokesman for Yitzhar charged it was in fact residents of Urif who started the initial blaze and damaged Israeli fields, as well as another fire that led to the closure of a road near the Har Bracha settlement.

Yitzhar residents were told the fire had caused damage to the town’s water pipes and that they were therefore recommended to stock up on water in the event that water were to be shut off.

The spokesman said the Palestinians argued the Israelis were farming land that had been taken from them by the army for security reasons.

Yitzhar and its surrounding outposts are seen as an epicenter of settler violence and have often been linked to attacks on Palestinians and their property, including in Urif last month.

Far-right Israelis justify targeting Palestinians and sometimes IDF soldiers in so-called “price tag” attacks, ostensibly in retaliation for terror attacks and Israeli government actions deemed hostile to the settler movement

In December, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs released a report that showed a 69 percent increase in settler attacks on Palestinians in 2018 compared to 2017.

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