Palestinian fields destroyed in apparent hate crime near Netiv Ha’avot outpost
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Palestinian fields destroyed in apparent hate crime near Netiv Ha’avot outpost

200 olive trees and grape vines found damaged in Bayt Sakarya less than a mile and a half from neighborhood where 15 illegal settler homes razed this week

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

One of the grapevines destroyed in an apparent hate crime attack in the Palestinian village of Bayt Sakarya adjacent to the Netiv Ha'avot outpost on June 14, 2015. (Hassan Barigha)
One of the grapevines destroyed in an apparent hate crime attack in the Palestinian village of Bayt Sakarya adjacent to the Netiv Ha'avot outpost on June 14, 2015. (Hassan Barigha)

Some 200 olive trees and grapevines were found destroyed Thursday morning in a Palestinian village adjacent to the Netiv Ha’avot outpost where 15 homes were cleared earlier this week for their court-ordered demolition.

Police said they were investigating the apparent hate crime in Beit Sakarya, where residents found the Hebrew phrase “Enough of the agricultural terror” spray-painted on a boulder at the scene — a reference to the tit-for-tat property attacks between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank in recent months.

According to the Yesh Din rights group, this was the second such incident in Beit Sakarya over the past two weeks.

Last week, crops were destroyed and Hebrew-language graffiti was daubed in a separate incident in the northern West Bank Palestinian village of Burin.

There too, the phrase “Enough of the agricultural terror” was found spray-painted in Hebrew on one bale that was not set on fire.

On Sunday, police released to house arrest a 17-year-old from Bnei Brak suspected of carrying out a number of these so-called “price tag” attacks against Palestinian villages. His release came nearly two weeks after his imprisonment, during which he was prevented from seeing an attorney.

A second minor from the northern West Bank was also freed, though charges against him are believed to be less severe, given that he was permitted attorney visitation.

The arrest of the minors came amid a wave of dozens of hate attacks against Palestinians in recent months, which have included 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.

‘Stop the agricultural terror,’ found graffitied in Hebrew in the Palestinian village of Burin, in the northern West Bank, on June 8, 2018. (Yesh Din, courtesy)

Settlers in the West Bank also suffered property damage in a number of recent incidents blamed on Palestinians. Last month, 150 grapevines belonging to the Jordan Valley settlement of Tomer were chopped down, and the cherry orchards at the settlement of Kfar Etzion were torched. Residents of both communities said Palestinians in neighboring villages were responsible for the damage.

While the Thursday police statement made a point of mentioning that the apparent hate crime attack took place near Netiv Ha’avot, a spokeswoman declined to say whether authorities suspected that residents were involved in the incident.

On Tuesday, police cleared 15 homes in the outpost that were found to have been built illegally on private Palestinian land.

Bulldozers have been working over the past two days razing the homes, thus completing the High Court of Justice ruling handed down in September 2016.

Tuesday’s evacuation was completed largely without incident. The first 14 homes were cleared with minimal resistance from demonstrators and the families themselves all agreed to leave on their own volition.

In the final home, hundreds of youth barricaded themselves inside. Two were arrested for hurling objects at officers and another was detained for assaulting a cop. All three were conditionally released the next day after court appearances.

Nine officers were injured while clearing the homes, but only one of them suffered injuries designated as moderate. The remaining eight did not require additional medical attention.

The 15 families from Netiv Ha’avot moved into a temporary neighborhood of modular homes where they are expected to live for the next two or three years until the government completes legalizing the remainder of the outpost. At which point, they plan to return.

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