Clashes erupted Saturday morning between settlers and Palestinians from the village of Qusra, southeast of Nablus, when the Palestinians tried to prepare the land for farming using heavy machinery, the Ynet website reported.
Tensions in the area are already high following the killing Friday of a Palestinian baby in a firebomb attack by suspected Jewish terrorists.
Security forces were called to the site to separate the Palestinians and the settlers, who were from the Esh Kodesh outpost, Ynet said. During the confrontation, the Palestinians also fought with the troops and threw stones.
The land is situated some 100 meters from the outpost’s perimeter fence, but the settlers claim that the land is attached to the outposts, and accused the Palestinians of provocation.
The settlers said that the dispute was instigated by members of Rabbis for Human Rights and left-wing European activists, who accompanied local Palestinian residents to the site in order to carry out infrastructure work on the land, whose ownership is under dispute.
Civil Administration officials are currently investigating whether the land falls in Area B, which is under joint Israeli and Palestinian security control and full Palestinian civilian jurisdiction, or Area C, which falls under complete Israeli control. The settlers claim that the land is owned by the State of Israel.
Palestinian news agency Ma’an quoted Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian official who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank, as saying that dozens of settlers from Esh Kodesh “descended on farmers in their fields between the outpost and Qusra.”
Daghlas said the settlers had intended to scare away the Palestinian farmers and lead them to abandon their fields. He added that dozens of men from the village confronted the settlers, who were ultimately forced to move back.
Qusra has been the scene of prior clashes between settlers and Palestinians. Last year, a group of settlers was captured by Palestinians, allegedly while en route to carry out a “price tag” attack, and held in a building in the village. The settlers, some of whom were beaten by their captors, were handed over to the IDF after several hours.
The settlers had allegedly approached Qusra in an attempt to carry out an attack, after the Civil Administration uprooted a settler olive grove near Esh Kodesh earlier in the day. The settlers, said to have come from the outpost, were also reported to have clashed with the village’s residents.
Esh Kodesh is a settlement outpost south of Qusra and west of Duma, where the Dawabsha family home was firebombed early Friday morning. Channel 2 reported Friday night that the two assailants fled on foot and were suspected of coming from the Esh Kodesh area, though not from Esh Kodesh.