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Israel: Settler attacks on Palestinians, Israeli soldiers increasing

Oct. 2, 2008 2:20 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 2, 2008 2:20 P.M.)
Jerusalem - Ma'an - Jewish settlers are committing hundreds of acts of violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, Israel's chief military officer in the occupied West Bank said on Thursday.

Settlers are also escalating attacks on Israeli soldiers who occasionally intervene, the general said in an interview with Ha'aretz.

"In the past, only a few dozen individuals took part in such activity, but today that number has grown into the hundreds," Major-General Gadi Shamni told Israeli reporters on Thursday.

"That's a very significant change," he added.

According to the Israeli army commander, settler attacks against Palestinians occur not as sporadic acts of violence, but as "conspiratorial actions" against citizens.

Shamni said that the "grave phenomenon" was gaining new levels of scrutiny by the Israeli populace, as many attacks are committed or planned by Jewish rabbis.

The United Nations (UN) had already reported 222 separate incidents of settler violence within the first six months of 2008, compared with a similar figure for the entire year of 2007, almost twice the average.

Palestinians insist that settlers have been harassing them for years. Among the commonly reported incidents are cases in which settlers burn olive trees or throw rocks at farmers.

On 13 September, dozens of settlers raided the West Bank village of Asira Al-Kibliya. Witnesses reported that many were armed with weapons, including guns, slingshots, knives and stun grenades.
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