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Olive harvest clashes continue as settlers beat Palestinian children; Israeli troops prevent access to lands

Oct. 4, 2008 12:40 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 4, 2008 12:40 P.M.)
Tulkarem/Hebron - Ma'an - Palestinian farmers were prevented, at gunpoint, from accessing their ancestral lands near Ar-Ras village in the southern Tulkarem district in order to harvest their olives.

The group had prepared the day's supplies and loaded them onto the farm's tractor, in order to reach the olive fields, located over rocky and often steep terrain. When accosted by a group of Israeli soldiers, however, the family was told to disembark from the tractor and take their supplies to the olive fields by foot.

The farmers told Ma'an's reporter that soldiers ordered them to abandon the tractor and proceed to their lands, kilometers away, on foot carrying supplies.

Head of the Ar-Ras local council Eid Yaseen condemned Israeli procedures explaining that they are aimed at exerting pressure on farmers and confiscating more lands for the separation wall. He also highlighted that Israeli authorities had set fire to large areas of agricultural fields in the previous weeks.

On Thursday Israeli forces detained 42-year-old Muhammad Abu Haykal , a resident of Hebron in the southern West Bank as he tried to prevent Israeli settlers of the Tal Rumeida settlement from stealing his olive harvest.

According to Abu Haykal's wife Umm Hussein Abu Haykal, the man was detained as he tried to defend his olive trees against settlers trying to harvest the fruit in the center of Hebron where the settlement was built.

"Dozens of settlers were collecting olives from our fields," said Umm Hussein Abu Haykal , "and when my son[ 14-yea-ol Mu'taz] tried to stop them, they beat him. When my husband intervened to protect Mu'taz, an Israeli patrol passing by detained him along with my sons Mu'taz and 19-year-old Hussein."

On Friday two other incidents occurred between international and Israeli peace activists who accompanied Palestinian farmers to their olive fields and groves for the fall harvest in Ni'lin and Hebron.

In the former case settlers claimed that the trees being harvested were not on the land belonging to the Palestinian family that claimed them, and in the second an activist from Rabbis for Human Rights was accused of attacking an extremist settler woman who brought her infant son to a gathering aimed at preventing Palestinians from harvesting their fruit.

The olive harvest season begins on the tail of a string of settler attacks against both Israeli forces and Palestinians in the West Bank, prompting several claims of increased settler violence, and fear of settler "anarchy" in the area.

On Friday the Israeli Magistrate's Court of Kfar Saba extended the remand of two Israeli settlers suspected of setting fire to Palestinian olive trees. They were each ordered detained for an additional four days, according to Israeli media and a third was placed under house arrest.

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