Several incidents of settler, Palestinian violence reported in West Bank
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Several incidents of settler, Palestinian violence reported in West Bank

Clashes in last 48 hours see sides hurling rocks, carrying out brutal assaults, though no arrests made; police investigating

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

A pair of Palestinian farmer from Umm-Safa allegedly assaulted by Israeli farmers on March 24, 2020. (Yesh Din)
A pair of Palestinian farmer from Umm-Safa allegedly assaulted by Israeli farmers on March 24, 2020. (Yesh Din)

Incidents of Israeli and Palestinian violence were reported in a number of locations throughout the West Bank on Monday and Tuesday, with perpetrators evidently refusing to heed government guidelines to stay inside due to the coronavirus outbreak.

In the Palestinian village of Umm Safa, a pair of farmers were working in their fields when an Israeli from nearby Halamish accused them of getting too close to his settlement and ordered them to leave, the Yesh Din rights group reported. It said that a group of eight settlers subsequently joined him at the scene and assaulted the farmers with batons and the butts of their rifles. One of the Palestinians reportedly required stitches.

In a separate incident Tuesday, Yesh Din reported that a group of nearly a dozen settlers descended from the northern West Bank hilltop where the settlement of Homesh had been located before it was evacuated in 2005. It said the settlers entered the field of a Palestinian farmer from Burqa, tearing down the fence and damaging his crops. Nearby villagers who saw the scene unfold arrived to assist the farmer, where a stone-throwing clash unfolded.

Israeli soldiers arrived at the scene and separated the sides, leading the settlers back toward the abandoned hilltop. The site belongs to a group of Palestinian farmers, who just last month were given permission for the first time since the 2005 evacuation to access their lands. However, a hard-line national-religious yeshiva continues to operate there on a daily basis, with no intervention by the army.

IDF troops escort a group of settlers away from nearby Burqa where they allegedly assaulted a pair of Palestinian farmers on March 24, 2020. (Yesh Din)

Also on Tuesday, Israeli troops shot a Palestinian suspect whom the military said was part of a pair throwing rocks at cars along a highway in the northern West Bank.

The Israel Defense Forces said the two suspects were seen by the soldiers throwing rocks “and planning to also throw stun grenades” at cars near the Palestinian village of Deir Abu Mashal, northwest of Ramallah.

“The troops opened fire, which hit one of the suspects,” the IDF said, adding that soldiers were still searching for the suspects.

This was the second time in just two days that soldiers had opened fire at Palestinians throwing rocks.

On Sunday, the IDF reported that it had foiled “a terror attack,” opening fire on a group of Palestinians throwing rocks at passing Israeli vehicles at the Ni’lin Junction south of the city of Qaliqilya. One of the Palestinians was killed and another wounded.

Pictures from the scene showed one of the vehicles hit with a smashed windscreen and a large rock. There were no reports of injuries to the motorists.

An Israeli vehicle hit by a rock in the West Bank on March 22, 2020 (IDF Spokepserson)

On Monday, Yesh Din reported three incidents of settler violence targeting Palestinians.

In one incident in Burqa north of Nablus, a Palestinian farmer and his brother had parked at their fields when they said they were ambushed by a group of 18 settlers, who began hurling stones at them. As they fled the scene, the attackers began vandalizing their vehicle, puncturing tires and smashing the windshield. They subsequently filed a police report, Yesh Din said.

In a second incident, in the central West Bank village of Al-Mughayyir, a farmer was reportedly beaten unconscious by a group of seven settlers who descended from the nearby settlement of Kochav Hashachar bearing crowbars and batons. An IDF jeep arrived at the scene and provided the victim with first-aid treatment before he was transferred to a hospital in Ramallah with internal bleeding. Then a police report was filed by the victim.

In a third incident, a shepherd and his two brothers from Ein al-Hilwe in the Jordan Valley were grazing their flock two kilometers away from nearby the Maskiyot settlement when a group of seven Israelis from the latter town approached and began beating the herdsman. His brothers tried to assist him but the settlers began hurling stones at them, forcing them to flee, Yesh Din reported. The shepherd subsequently spent the night in the hospital with injuries to his upper extremities.

A spokesperson for the West Bank district of the Israel Police said she was looking into the various reports, but did not have any further information.

Despite dozens of hate crimes targeting Palestinians and their property over the past year, arrests of suspects have been exceedingly rare.

The attacks, often referred to as price tag attacks, are usually limited to arson and graffiti but sometimes include physical assaults and even murder.

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