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Israeli settlers spray chemicals on Palestinian farmers during attack

July 22, 2008 7:01 P.M. (Updated: July 22, 2008 7:01 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Israeli settlers sprayed chemicals on a group of Palestinian farmers while attacking them in the Qalqilia area of the northern West Bank on Monday, human rights fieldworkers reported.

According to a report compiled by the International Women's Peace Service (IWPS), five settlers, two of them riding horses, from an outpost called Havat Gilad approached two farmers while they were working on their land in the village of Immatin.

As the settlers started surrounding the two Palestinian farmers, they phoned their family for help. In the meantime, an additional fifteen Palestinians from Far'ata who had been working in their land nearby rushed to the aid of the other farmers.

The farmers told IWPS that the settlers threw stones at the Palestinians, threatened to beat them, and set small fires on the hillside. Approximately 15 more masked settlers joined them.

Fifteen Israeli soldiers arrived, looking on while the settlers continued their assault, the farmers said.

When a 54-year-old Palestinian farmer approached the soldiers, a settler came between the soldier and the Palestinian and sprayed the Palestinian with an unknown chemical substance on his arms, hands and eyes, causing a burning sensation and loss of vision.

When the farmer's 22-year-old-son attempted to protect his father, the settler sprayed his arms and hands with the same unknown substance.

According to the victims, the soldiers did nothing to stop the settlers from assaulting them, instead shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at the Palestinians. A 34-year-old Palestinian was shot with a rubber bullet at the top of his thigh from approximately thirty meters away. After this, a soldier threw a tear gas bomb directly in front of him.

The farmers reported that the fires, some started by the settlers and others caused by the heat of the teargas canisters, destroyed a total of 60 olive trees before Palestinian firemen could put them out.

After the confrontation had ended, the injured Palestinians were treated at a local clinic.

Both Palestinian men who had been sprayed with the unknown chemical substance reported that the burning sensations caused by the spray had not subsided the following day.

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