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Settlers said to attack Palestinians near evacuated outpost; IDF called in

Three Palestinian farmers reported injured in the clash; settler leader says students at illegal yeshiva at West Bank site were protecting themselves

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Settlers chase after Palestinians near the West Bank outpost of Homesh on November 15, 2021. (Yesh Din/Screenshot)
Settlers chase after Palestinians near the West Bank outpost of Homesh on November 15, 2021. (Yesh Din/Screenshot)

A group of young Israeli extremists attacked a number of Palestinian farmers in the northern West Bank with rocks and clubs on Monday, injuring at least three of them, according to a left-wing Israeli rights group.

Settler leader Yossi Dagan rejected that account, saying the Israelis — students at an illegally operated religious school in the area — were defending themselves from attack.

The Israel Defense Forces, whose troops were called to the scene, refused to address the question of who attacked first, saying only that a “violent clash” took place, which included “mutual rock-throwing,” though the military acknowledged that at least one of the Israeli settlers fired a gun into the air during the clash.

“The conflict has broken up. IDF troops are in the area,” the military said hours later.

The attack came amid an uptick in violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in recent months, with 67 such incidents reported during this year’s olive harvest, compared to 42 last year, according to IDF figures reported by Army Radio this week.

The Yesh Din rights group, which published a number of graphic photographs of the Palestinians’ injuries and of the attack itself, said the Israel Police and military were immediately called when the assault began, but “it took the police and army a long time to arrive at the scene.”

According to Yesh Din, the Palestinian farmers from the village of Burqa had gone up to the area to work their land near the ostensibly abandoned Homesh settlement, which Israelis were meant to have left following the 2005 disengagement but which is in practice the site of an illegal outpost, the Homesh Yeshiva.

“As they were on the way to their lands, a vehicle blocked the path behind them, while at the same time, about 15 settlers charged towards them while throwing stones and armed with clubs. The settlers managed to trap one of the Palestinians,” the director of Yesh Din said.

According to the group, the Palestinian man was beaten with clubs and rocks and was pepper-sprayed. Two other Palestinian men were also injured by stones when they went back to rescue their friend.

 

 

Dagan, the head of the local Samaria Regional Council, blamed the Palestinians for starting the violence, saying they first threw rocks at the settlers, who “protected themselves until security forces arrived.”

The area around the former Homesh settlement has seen periodic violence by settlers against Palestinians. The site belongs to a group of Palestinian farmers, who just last year were given permission to access their lands for the first time since the 2005 evacuation of the settlement. However, despite the nominal closure of the outpost, a hardline national-religious yeshiva has continued to operate there on a daily basis, with no intervention by the army.

Dagan called the videos released by Yesh Din “tendentious” and alleged the group was attempting to delegitimize the settlement enterprise.

Last month, Defense Minister Benny Gantz issued a statement urging the military to act “systemically, aggressively and uncompromisingly” against violence by settlers, against Palestinians and against security forces, who have occasionally come into the crosshairs as well. It represented rare rhetoric from a senior Israeli official denouncing such activity, though no reported crackdown has followed.

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