Rampaging settlers shatter fragile calm

Rampaging settlers shatter fragile calm

Rampaging settlers shatter fragile calm

Friday, 24 July 2009 07:14 Mel Frykberg

On Monday over 1,500 olive trees belonging to Palestinians near the Yitzhar settlement south of the Palestinian city Nablus were set on fire and destroyed by settlers.

Several Palestinians were injured, and a number of their cars damaged when rocks were thrown at them as settlers blocked roads leading into the city.

Israeli security forces subsequently arrested five settlers in altercations which saw an Israeli soldier and a settler also injured.

This latest outbreak of violence followed the forcible evacuation of several illegal settler outposts by Israeli security forces, and are part of a calculated campaign by the settlers to take revenge on Palestinians for every evacuated outpost.

Under intense U.S. pressure to cease illegal settlement activity in the West Bank, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his security forces to begin dismantling a number of outposts in the beginning of June.

The outposts comprise a few caravans, often not even connected to water or electricity, and are illegal under Israeli law.

The wave of violent attacks against Palestinians had started increasing in number and severity in the summer of last year when Israeli settlers started to make good on their threat to enforce their “price tag” policy with “protests” after each outpost forcibly evacuated.

These “protests” have come in the form of rioting, attacking Palestinians, throwing rocks at their cars, setting their property and farmland on fire, as well as attacking Israeli soldiers and police.

Attacks last year saw an Israeli soldier threatened at gunpoint by an armed settler, an Israeli policeman assaulted, and several security force vehicles damaged.

“The goal is to create a price for each evacuation, causing Israeli authorities to think twice about carrying them out,” says Israeli rights group Yesh Din in a statement. Sarit Michaeli from the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem says there are fears that the violence could increase in the next few weeks when many settler youths are bored and on summer vacation.

“Our work against settler violence is ongoing. We have provided video cameras to Palestinians living in these volatile areas in the hope that any video evidence will help police to arrest the perpetrators as well as making the offenders more careful in the knowledge they are being filmed,” Michaeli told IPS.

“On a policy level we have written several times to law enforcement authorities about their obligations under international law to defend Palestinians from the settler attacks and their ‘price tag’ acts of retaliation,” said Michaeli.