Israeli troops prevented left-wing activists from reaching a Palestinian village in the West Bank for several hours on Saturday, before letting the group proceed to Susiya, the site of a disturbance by right-wing settlers last week.
The soldiers blocked the activists under a 24-hour military legal order that barred some non-resident civilians from entering the area. The rarely used “flattening order” is meant to head off public disturbances and was applied only to the area around the village.
The military said, “In light of the situational assessment and following expectations of a public order disturbance in the south Hebron hills, the brigade commander, in line with his authority, ordered a temporary restriction to the area to those that don’t live there.”
Last weekend, dozens of Israeli settlers entered a playground inside Susiya, in the South Hebron Hills. According to left-wing Israeli activists at the scene, the settlers expelled Palestinian children who were on a playground.
In videos from the scene, the settlers can be seen milling about in the playground, surrounded by the army, with little evidence of a struggle. The settlers reportedly remained in the playground for around half an hour before police officers dispersed them.
extremist settlers stormed the village of Susiya shortly before Where they stormed a children's park and this was done under the protection of the army. The settlers wandered inside the village and between the homes of the citizens,which left fear in the hearts of the residents. pic.twitter.com/YnEyprYlFS
— Basel Adra (@basel_adra) November 6, 2021
The army said that the settlers entered the playground as part of a “confrontation” in the area. It said the clips were “not reflective of how the incident unfolded.”
The disturbances in Susiya come amid an uptick in violence in recent weeks by right-wing settlers in the West Bank surrounding the annual olive harvest, which regularly sees heightened tensions between Israeli settlers, Palestinians and the Israeli military.
On Friday, dozens of settlers attacked Palestinians and left-wing Israeli activists near the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin, police and eyewitnesses said.
At least three Israelis were injured during the attack, which came as the yearly olive harvest draws to a close, according to Israeli activists.
The Israeli military said three settlers had been detained and handed over to police. There was no immediate comment from local settler officials.
Following the incident, the Israeli army published a decree declaring the area a closed military zone for a month. Palestinians and Israelis who wish to enter the zone — which includes some land cultivated by Palestinians — must first coordinate with the army, a spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces said.
On Thursday, Israeli settlers reportedly injured two farmers and killed a sheep in another attack against Palestinians harvesting olives in the West Bank.
The Yesh Din right group said it was the 38th violent attack targeting Palestinians participating during the annual olive harvest.
Of this year’s attacks, nine were alleged assaults by Israeli settlers; 10 involved the uprooting and damaging of olive trees; 15 included the theft of olives; and four were cases of settlers preventing Palestinians from accessing their lands.
There have not been any reports of arrests made by Israeli authorities in those incidents before Thursday. In some of the cases, IDF soldiers have been filmed arriving at the scene but standing by as the attacks unfold.