A group of Palestinian farmers harvesting their olive trees in the West Bank were attacked Friday by around 30 settlers, leaving four people with minor injuries, Palestinian officials said.
The attack, which comes amid an uptick in settler violence in recent months, began when Israeli settlers descended from a nearby settlement hurling stones and spraying pepper spray at Palestinian olive pickers near the town of Salfit, reported the official Palestinian Authority news agency, Wafa.
The Palestinian town’s authorities reported the attack in a posting on Facebook.
The settlers smashed cars and stole olives, as well as some of the belongings of one of the female pickers, the news agency said, quoting Youssef Hammouda, a local farmer.
Israeli police confirmed they arrested four settlers near the settlement of Rechelim in connection with a Palestinian woman’s stolen goods.
Meanwhile, in the southern West Bank a 17-year-old settler was attacked by a group of Palestinians while he was herding sheep, local officials said.
They said the youth was beaten with sticks. Magen David Adom medics said he was taken to a hospital with a broken hand.
In recent days, hard-line settlers have clashed with Israeli troops and vandalized Palestinian property in what are known as “price-tag” attacks — retaliations against perceived efforts by Israel to limit settlement expansion.
Last month, dozens of Israeli settlers attacked a Bedouin village in the southern West Bank, smashing cars and homes and leaving several injured, including a Palestinian toddler who was hospitalized with head injuries.
On Wednesday, two IDF soldiers were lightly injured when an Israeli settler attacked them with pepper spray outside the illegal West Bank outpost of Adei Ad, near the Palestinian town of al-Mughayyir in the central West Bank.
The IDF described the attack as a “serious” incident and called for police to open an investigation.
Earlier in the week, a Border Police officer was injured in clashes with settlers outside the Yitzhar settlement, a community with a reputation for harboring extremist elements and that regularly sees conflicts between far-right nationalists, Palestinians and security forces.
On Thursday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz called on the military to combat rising settler attacks against Palestinians and Israeli forces by reacting “systematically, aggressively and uncompromisingly” to such behavior. Settler attacks on Palestinians and their olive tree groves are common during the autumn harvesting season.
Nearly all of the more than 500,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank reside in authorized settlements but more radical settlers have set up dozens of outposts, often in rural areas, that are illegal under Israeli law. The Israeli army has been hesitant to take action against the radical settlers, in part because it could lead to violent clashes.