Police investigate reported vandalism on Palestinian agricultural land
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Police investigate reported vandalism on Palestinian agricultural land

Trees said damaged near settlement of Susya; report notes jump in the number of hate crimes against Palestinians

An olive tree chopped down at the site of an apparent hate crime in the village of Tuwani in the southern West Bank on January 8, 2019. (B'Tselem)
Illustrative: An olive tree chopped down at the site of an apparent hate crime in the village of Tuwani in the southern West Bank on January 8, 2019. (B'Tselem)

Israel Police said Thursday they received a report of damage to trees and saplings on Palestinian agricultural land near the West Bank settlement of Susya.

Investigators went to the scene to gather evidence and opened a probe into the matter, police said a statement.

The incident came amid a recent spate of vandalism and other hate crimes against Palestinians in the West Bank.

On Wednesday, threatening graffiti messages were discovered in the home village of a Palestinian man who was arrested in connection with an alleged rape of a 7-year-old Israeli girl, before charges were dropped and he was released.

An inscription saying “The death penalty is necessary for Mahmoud Qadusa” was sprayed on a wall in the West Bank village of Dir Kadis, referring to the formerly accused man. The attackers also damaged several cars in the village.

Last month, there were six similar incidents of vandalism against Palestinian property in the West Bank, but police have yet to apprehend any suspects. The attacks targeted Sarta, Sinjil, Deir Istiya, Kafr Malik, Einabus and Yasuf — villages in the central and northern West Bank.

Far-right Israelis justify targeting Palestinians and sometimes IDF soldiers in so-called price tag attacks, ostensibly in retaliation for terror attacks or Israeli government actions deemed hostile to the settler movement. The incidents are usually limited to arson and graffiti but have sometimes included physical assaults and even murder.

Arrests of perpetrators have been exceedingly rare. Rights groups lament that convictions are even more unusual, with the majority of charges in such cases being dropped.

Masked Israeli settlers from Yitzhar and soldiers watch after Palestinian fields were set on fire in the village of Asira al-Qiblyia on June 2, 2010. (Wagdi Ashtiyeh/Flash90)

According to a Channel 12 report Wednesday, there has been a massive increase in the number of annual hate crimes against Palestinians. In 2016 there were 52 such incidents, in 2017 the number rose to 75, and in 2018 there was a jump to 205 attacks.

Defense officials told the station that hate crimes by settlers provoke responses by Palestinians, leading to concerns of spiraling violence that could inflame the entire West Bank. The price tag attacks, officials stressed, are considered acts of terror.

A security source noted that so far, 2019 has showed a drop in the number of hate crimes. The television report did not give a total for the year so far.

The source identified the northern West Bank Jewish settlement of Yitzhar as a main source of trouble, with it and its surrounding outposts often linked to attacks on Palestinians and their property.

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