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Settlers said to assault 2 farmers, kill sheep in latest attack on Palestinians

Rights group says it has documented 38 violent incidents surrounding Palestinian olive harvest; no arrests reported, despite directive by Gantz to crack down on settler violence

Illustrative: Israeli soldiers stand by as masked Israeli settlers throw stones at Palestinian protesters (unseen) gathering during a demonstration against construction on an Israeli outpost near the Palestinian village of Turmusaya and the settlement of Shilo, north of Ramallah in the West Bank, on October 17, 2019. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)
Illustrative: Israeli soldiers stand by as masked Israeli settlers throw stones at Palestinian protesters (unseen) gathering during a demonstration against construction on an Israeli outpost near the Palestinian village of Turmusaya and the settlement of Shilo, north of Ramallah in the West Bank, on October 17, 2019. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)

Israeli settlers on Thursday reportedly injured two farmers and killed a sheep in the latest attack against Palestinians harvesting olives in the West Bank.

The latest incident took place around noon, when a group of Israelis descended from the hardline Yitzhar settlement in the northern West Bank toward a group of Palestinian farmers harvesting land belonging to the village of Hawara, the Yesh Din rights group said. The Palestinians were working the land in coordination with the Israel Defense Forces, according to Yesh Din.

The settlers hurled stones at the Palestinians and beat them with rods, injuring two of the farmers, the organization said.

The group of attackers then spotted a Palestinian shepherd with his livestock nearby and began attacking the animals, killing one of the sheep and injuring three others, according to Yesh Din.

An Israeli military spokesperson said that forces arrived at the scene and saw a settler throwing rocks at Palestinians.

“They apprehended him and turned him over to the police, who are handling the incident,” the army spokesperson said.

The rights group said this was the 38th violent attack targeting Palestinians participating during the annual olive harvest, which is marred each year by Israeli attacks.

Of this year’s attacks, nine were alleged assaults by Israeli settlers; 10 involved the uprooting and damaging of olive trees; 15 included the theft of olives; and four were cases of settlers preventing Palestinians from accessing their lands.

There have not been any reports of arrests made by Israeli authorities in those incidents before Thursday. In some of the cases, IDF soldiers have been filmed arriving at the scene but standing by as the attacks unfold.

“Years of failure by law enforcement systems to deal with this violence contributes and allows it to rage on. We will continue to stand by the Palestinians and demand an end to the occupation and apartheid,” said Yesh Din CEO Lior Amichai.

Yesh Din was among 12 progressive Israeli organizations that issued a letter to Defense Minister Benny Gantz calling on him to put an end to growing settler violence.

Last month, Gantz issued a statement urging the military to act “systemically, aggressively and uncompromisingly” against such attacks. It represented rare rhetoric from a senior Israeli official on the phenomenon, though no reported crackdown has followed.

A day before Thursday’s attack, at least two Palestinians were shot and wounded by Israeli settlers during clashes in the South Hebron Hills, according to witnesses.

A Palestinians car allegedly damaged by stones thrown by Israeli settlers during clashes in the South Hebron Hills, on November 11, 2021 (Courtesy)

In videos from the scene, Israeli soldiers could be seen standing between the settlers and Palestinians in the dark countryside, lit only by flashlights.

“A report was received about a violent confrontation between Israeli settlers and dozens of Palestinians,” a spokesperson for the military said then. “Israel Defense Force units are operating to separate the sides.”

No arrests were made, either of settlers or of Palestinians.

On Saturday afternoon, dozens of Israeli settlers entered a playground inside the Palestinian hamlet of Susiya in the South Hebron Hills. According to left-wing Israeli activists at the scene, the settlers expelled Palestinian children who were in the playground.

In videos from the scene, the settlers can be seen milling about in the playground, surrounded by the army, with little evidence of a struggle. The settlers reportedly remained in the playground for around half an hour before police officers dispersed them.

The army said that the settlers entered the playground as part of a “confrontation” in the area. It said the clips were “not reflective of how the incident unfolded.”

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