Israeli, Palestinian fields set ablaze in suspected arson incidents
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Israeli, Palestinian fields set ablaze in suspected arson incidents

In West Bank settlement of Kfar Etzion, cherry orchard torched just days before local cherry festival; in Ad-Deirat, wheat field burned and Hebrew hate slogans found on walls

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

A cherry tree torched in an apparent hate crime attack in the settlement of Kfar Etzion on May 23, 2018. (Yaron Rosenthal/Kfar Etzion Field School)
A cherry tree torched in an apparent hate crime attack in the settlement of Kfar Etzion on May 23, 2018. (Yaron Rosenthal/Kfar Etzion Field School)

Unidentified vandals in the West Bank set fire to an Israeli cherry orchard and a Palestinian wheat field before dawn on Wednesday in apparent arson incidents, causing thousands of shekels in damage.

In Kfar Etzion, a cherry orchard was torched  just days ahead of the Gush Etzion Regional Council’s annual cherry festival. Local settlers accused  Palestinians from the nearby village of Beit Ummar,

Police arrived at the scene and opened an investigation into the incident, but did not comment on possible suspects or motive.

A statement from the regional council said Wednesday’s incident was part of a wave of attempted arson against its orchards that have taken place over the past several weeks. Last month, farmers in Kfar Etzion reported the theft of tons of cherries.

A cherry tree torched in an apparent hate crime attack in the settlement of Kfar Etzion on May 23, 2018. (Yaron Rosenthal/Kfar Etzion Field School)

“We are witness to repeated, organized attacks by Arab rioters against Jewish communities,” said Gush Etzion Regional Council chairman Shlomo Ne’eman.

Several miles to the south in the Palestinian village of Ad-Deirat in the South Hebron Hills, a wheat field was set ablaze and  hate slogans in Hebrew were found graffitied on the walls of one of the homes.

The field belonged to Ahmad Adara, who told The Times of Israel that he had been up at 4 a.m. eating ahead of the upcoming Ramadan fast day when he noticed the blaze.

A torched wheat field from an apparent price-tag attack in the Palestinian village of Ad-Deirat on May 23, 2018. (Tag Meir)

“We ran and tried to extinguish what we could, but there were thousands of shekels of damage from what we couldn’t save,” said Adara.

The Hebrew graffiti slogans at the scene read “enough of the agriculture terror,” — a phrase Israeli farmers have used to describe attacks on their crops allegedly carried out by Palestinians — and “we will reach every place.”

Police said they were investigating.

The apparent hate crime came less than 24 hours after similar damage was discovered in the Palestinian village of Halhul, near Hebron.

Local farmers found two acres of their vineyard destroyed in the second attack they sustained in less than a week.

Hebrew graffiti reading “enough of the agricultural terror” and “we will reach every place” found at the scene of an apparent price-tag attack in the Palestinian village of Ad-Deirat on May 23, 2018. (Tag Meir)

Last Wednesday, 400 grapevines were cut down alongside threatening graffiti in Hebrew. Photos taken by B’Tselem human rights group showed the Hebrew phrase “We will reach every place” spray-painted on a boulder at the scene.

Recent months have seen many attacks against Palestinians, including the chopping down of dozens of olive trees, the torching of a mosque, stones thrown through car windows, the slashing of tires, and graffiti calling for the murder of Arabs. Police are investigating the various crimes, but no arrests have been reported.

Israeli settlers also suffered property damage in at least one April incident blamed on Palestinians. Some 150 grapevines in a vineyard belonging to a resident of the Jordan Valley settlement of Tomer were chopped down overnight.

A pair of memorials built in the northern West Bank in memory of settlers killed in Palestinian terror attacks have also been vandalized in recent weeks.

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