Israeli, Palestinian vineyards vandalized in ongoing hate crime wave
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Israeli, Palestinian vineyards vandalized in ongoing hate crime wave

Weekend incidents in West Bank are latest in series of alleged tit-for-tat property attacks in recent weeks

A vineyard owner near the West Bank settlement of Shiloh inspects damage to his vineyard from suspected Palestinian arsonists, May 27, 2018. (Courtesy Yesha Council)
A vineyard owner near the West Bank settlement of Shiloh inspects damage to his vineyard from suspected Palestinian arsonists, May 27, 2018. (Courtesy Yesha Council)

An apparent ongoing exchange of agricultural hate crimes between Jews and Arabs claimed two additional vineyards, one Israeli-owned and the other Palestinian-owned, in the West Bank over the weekend.

Residents of the Palestinian village Bani Naim near Hebron complained to police on Sunday of massive destruction to their vineyards over the weekend, with hundreds of vines uprooted or destroyed.

The attack took place at “a field not far from two other fields that were vandalized in the past two weeks,” according to the advocacy group Yesh Din.

On a nearby building, investigators found Hebrew graffiti reading “Stop the agricultural terror, we will reach every place.”

Within hours, a similar report came from an Israeli vineyard near the settlement of Shiloh north of Jerusalem.

Hebrew-language graffiti reading “Stop the agricultural terror, we can reach every place” is scrawled on a building near Hebron, next to the site where hundreds of vines were uprooted or cut down in a Palestinian vineyard, May 27, 2018. (Photo by local residents, courtesy Yesh Din)

Hundreds of vines were uprooted or cut down, according to the vineyard owner, a local resident.

Israeli residents of the area say that property attacks are a recurring phenomenon, and accuse the Palestinian residents of the nearby town of Qusra of destroying their vineyards.

Police and the army have launched investigations into both incidents.

The weekend attacks follow a number of fires near Kfar Etzion south of Jerusalem on Friday, in the second suspected arson attack targeting the West Bank settlement in days.

Firefighters managed to put out the flames before they spread to a cherry orchard that had already been heavily damaged by a fire on Tuesday. According to the Haaretz daily, the firefighters said the fires appeared to have been set intentionally.

Yaron Rosenthal, the director of Kfar Etzion’s field school, told the paper the fire damaged hundreds of trees in a nearby grove.

On Tuesday, vandals set fire to Kfar Etzion’s cherry orchard, causing thousands of shekels in damage days ahead of the Gush Etzion Regional Council’s annual cherry festival.

Local residents accused Palestinians from the nearby village of Beit Ummar of starting the fires. The Gush Etzion Regional Council said local settlements were the targets of “repeated, organized attacks by Arab rioters” in recent months.

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)

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.

On Tuesday, a wheat field in the Palestinian village of Ad-Deirat outside of Hebron was set ablaze and hate slogans in Hebrew were found on the walls of one of the homes. That graffiti also read “stop 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.”

On Wednesday, Palestinian farmers in the Hebron area said two acres of their vineyard had been destroyed for the second time in under a week. Farmers in Halhul said 400 grapevines were cut down and threatening graffiti in Hebrew was found nearby. Photos taken by the B’Tselem rights group showed the recurring Hebrew phrase “we will reach every place” spray-painted on a boulder at the scene.

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 Israeli killed in Palestinian terror attacks have also been vandalized in recent weeks.

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