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Red Cross says settlers maced personnel in West Bank

Military says it provided first aid to 3 workers, who were surveying damaged Palestinian olive groves near the Yitzhar settlement

Illustrative: A Red Cross vehicle in Gaza (Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90)
Illustrative: A Red Cross vehicle in Gaza (Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90)

Three Red Cross workers were assaulted on Tuesday by a number of Israeli settlers, who pepper-sprayed them as they surveyed damage done to Palestinian olive groves, the orghanization and the Israel Defense Forces said.

IDF troops provided first aid to the Red Cross personnel, according to a military spokesperson. The army said it could not comment further on the incident, as it is a police matter.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said staffers “were attacked with pepper spray by Israeli settlers during a joint field visit with Palestinian farmers and IDF officials in the area of Burin town south of Nablus. IDF officials present on the ground escorted ICRC staff to their military base, where they provided first aid.” It added that “this is not the 1st time ICRC staff are aggressed while carrying out their work in the West Bank.”

According to Kan news, the Red Cross workers filed an official complaint with the Israel Police. Police later confirmed they had received the complaint and immediately opened an investigation into the incident, but would not comment further on the details of the case.

“We will continue to investigate the case thoroughly and professionally in order to bring the people involved to justice,” a police spokesperson said.

The alleged attack occurred in olive groves between the Palestinian village of Burin and the Yitzhar settlement, which is widely considered to be a hotbed of Jewish extremist activity.

Recent weeks have seen as uptick in attacks by extremist settlers, many of them specifically targeting Palestinian olive groves during the fall harvest in the West Bank.

On Monday, a group of settlers attacked volunteers helping Palestinian olive farmers, the Rabbis for Human Rights group said, providing a video showing the incident.

A Rabbis for Human Rights activist was injured and required medical treatment in the attack, which came as he helped out with the olive harvest in the West Bank town of Awarta. According to the organization, the assailants were from the settlement of Itamar.

A video provided by the activists showed a group of men approaching the olive harvest workers. IDF soldiers can be seen trying to separate between the two groups, although the approaching men were still able to get close to the workers. One of the men then pulled out pepper spray and squirted it at the workers over an IDF soldier’s shoulder.

The soldiers then pushed the man and his companions away, distancing them from the harvest workers, one of whom could be heard coughing, apparently due to effects from the spray.

Saturday also saw an attack on Palestinian olive harvesters. The Palestinian Authority’s official Wafa news agency reported that Israelis from the Adei Ad outpost assaulted villagers from nearby Turmus Ayya as they harvested olives, with one man requiring medical treatment after being attacked with pepper spray. The settlers also reportedly set a car on fire and vandalized three others.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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