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Settlers pepper-spray rights activists in West Bank

Rabbis for Human Rights says assault left its volunteer requiring medical treatment; video shows group of men approaching Palestinian olive harvesters, despite IDF presence

Settlers from a West Bank settlement attacked volunteers helping Palestinian olive farmers on Monday, 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.

The attackers arrived on foot and quadbikes, then pepper-sprayed volunteers working with the Palestinians, according to the rights group, whose volunteers said Israeli security forces were present at the scene, but barely intervened.

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 over an IDF soldier’s shoulder at the workers.

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

The group noted that two years ago, masked men using metal bars attacked one of its members, Rabbi Moshe Yehudai, during an olive harvest in the West Bank village of Burin, breaking his arm.

“The attack on harvesters today joins a series of attacks that are happening nearly daily by Jewish terror operatives,” said Rabbis for Human Rights Director Avi Davush in the statement.

Davush said the settlers are attacking Palestinian farmers, those who are aiding them, and Israeli security forces.

“It is time that the government wakes up and acts to uproot these terror organizations and send a clear message that violence will be met with a firm hand” and real punishment, he said.

The incident came after a Saturday attack on Palestinian olive harvesters, which saw a car torched and which Palestinian media blamed on settlers.

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 Palestinian Authority’s official Wafa news agency reported.

The settlers also reportedly set a car on fire and vandalized three others.

There has been a recent uptick in attacks by extremist settlers, many of them specifically targeting Palestinian olive groves during the fall olive harvest in the West Bank that began earlier this month.

On Sunday, police arrested two suspects for allegedly macing two soldiers and attacking a Palestinian man outside Adei Ad last week. The assault came after a group of settlers allegedly destroyed a Palestinian-owned olive grove near another Palestinian village, close to Ramallah.

Separately, prosecutors filed rare indictments on Thursday against two Israeli minors for their alleged involvement in a recent stone-throwing assault on a Palestinian village in the South Hebron Hills that reportedly left at least 12 Palestinians injured, including a 3-year-old boy.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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