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Settlers clash with Palestinians harvesting olives near Yitzhar

Israelis say farmers went beyond area allotted to them by IDF; PA official claims villagers were tending to trees that they own; injuries reported on both sides

Illustrative photo: Masked Jewish settlers, background, and Palestinians, foreground, hurl stones during clashes in the West Bank, Friday, May 3, 2013. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Illustrative photo: Masked Jewish settlers, background, and Palestinians, foreground, hurl stones during clashes in the West Bank, Friday, May 3, 2013. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Israeli youth clashed with a group of Palestinian farmers harvesting olives outside of the hardline Yitzhar settlement on Wednesday, with each side accusing the other of instigating the skirmish.

Three were injured in the incident, including Mayor Nasser al-Hawari of Hawara, a nearby village, and his deputy, Kamal Awdah, according to Ghassan Daghlas, a PA official responsible for monitoring settlements in the northern West Bank.

An 19-year-old Israeli was also lightly injured from a rock that hit him in the head, requiring stitches, said a Samaria Regional Council spokeswoman.

The IDF arrived at the scene and broke up the clash. Both sides reported that several Palestinians were arrested, including al-Hawari. Police did not respond to a request to confirm the arrests.

The Samaria spokeswoman said that the Palestinians from Hawara were harvesting olives near Yitzhar when a handful of them approached the edge of the settlement, 50 meters from a daycare center. An Israeli teenager descended from a nearby hilltop to warn the farmers to keep their distance, at which point, the spokeswoman said, the Palestinians began to hurl stones at him.

Posted by ‎محمود شحادة‎ on Wednesday, October 30, 2019

According to Daghlas, the Palestinians were merely harvesting olives from trees that they own near Yitzhar when settlers began hurling rocks at them.

Some of the Palestinians then threw rocks toward the settlers “to defend themselves and their land,” according to Daghlas.

The Palestinians had received permission from Israeli security authorities to access their trees on Wednesday, he added.

The skirmish comes amid a period of tension in the northern West Bank, mainly between settlers from the Yitzhar area and Israeli security forces, but with Palestinians as well.

Last week there were two reported attacks targeting Palestinian villages in the northern West Bank where vandals damaged dozens of cars and spray-painted graffiti referencing recent IDF policies to crack down on violence by teens known as “hilltop youth” who live in the outposts surrounding Yitzhar.

An Israeli settler is treated in an ambulance outside Yitzhar on October 30, 2019. (Honenu)

Earlier this month, 30 of those youth attacked a group of activists from the Rabbis for Human Rights NGO as they accompanied Palestinian farmers harvesting olives near Yitzhar. Four foreign volunteers were injured along with an 80-year-old Israeli activist.

The incident came as the annual olive harvest was just beginning. More than 100,000 Palestinian families rely to some extent on the income they generate from their olives and some 18 percent of Palestinian agricultural production comes from olives, according to statistics from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The harvest is a frequent site of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli settlers that the Israel Defense Forces says it seeks to prevent.

Palestinian media and rights groups have reported multiple cases of Israelis interfering with the annual harvest, attacking Palestinians, stealing olives and uprooting trees. Settlers insist that Palestinians use the harvest as a means to provoke clashes with Israelis and say that they are often goaded by left-wing activists.

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