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Settlers torch Palestinian property, uproot trees

Dec. 6, 2009 12:10 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 7, 2009 5:26 P.M.)
Nablus – Ma'an – Angry at their government over a slowdown in the expansion of West Bank settlements, Israeli settlers set fire to Palestinian vehicles and buildings and uprooted more than 50 trees on Sunday.

Settlers set ablaze two warehouses, two cars, and a tractor belonging to Palestinian farmers in the northern West Bank village of Einabus near Nablus on Sunday morning.

Palestinian sources said firefighters from the Civil Defense service and Nablus municipal council were alerted at 2:30am and headed to the home of Nadir Mufdi to extinguish a fire in his barn, as well as a tractor and private car.

Separately, eyewitnesses told Ma'an that Israeli settlers set fire to a car owned by Fayiz Allan in the same area. No injuries were reported in either apparent arson.

The Palestinian Civil Defense Department said it was able to contain the fire in the barn owned by a resident identified by the initials “HA.” Firefighters were able to stanch the fire and prevent it from spreading to adjacent areas.

In a statement the Civil Defense Department also said losses from the fire were estimated at 40,000 US dollars, including two cars and 20 haystacks.

Israeli Defense Ministry sources told Ma'an that while they could not confirm the attack was in retaliation for plans to temporarily freeze some settlement construction in the West Bank, a large contingent of military forces was in the area and operating under the assumption that the incident was "a revenge act."

Residents of the Yizhar settlement were likely involved, the sources added.

A spokesman for Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories would confirm only that the Civil Administration had received a complaint that settlers set fire to two vehicles and a building. Authorities are investigating the incident, the official added.

Bethlehem: Settlers uproot trees

Separately dozens of Israeli settlers uprooted more than fifty newly-planted trees on Sunday from fields in the West Bank village of Um Salamona, south of Bethlehem, Palestinian officials said.

The trees were planted last week during a campaign led by the Palestinian Authority governor of Bethlehem Abdul-Fattah Hamayil. The aim of the planting was to express solidarity with the people of Um Salamona whose lands are being confiscated by Israeli authorities to build the separation wall between it and the settlement of Efrat.

“This assault by settlers reflects their barbarism which they practice even against trees and stones that belong to the Palestinians,” Hamayil commented.

He explained that such attacks were completion of an overarching Israeli government plan to confiscate Palestinian lands to build more settlements.

Hamayil said the uprooting of the trees in Um Salamona exposed Israel’s settlement freeze as an act of deception.

“Israeli claims about temporarily freezing settlement activities are nothing more than deception,” the governor said.

For his part, the head of Um Salamona’s village council, Mahmoud Rashid, explained that the governor of Bethlehem, along with Palestinian national security services chiefs, and representatives of Palestinian factions started a land reclamation campaign in the village last week. However, he added, Israeli authorities and settlers impeded the campaign through various means.

Price tag

Israeli settlers from Yizhar attacked Palestinians in the village of Asira on Friday, according to Gassan Doughlas, who holds the Palestinian Authority's settlements portfolio for the northern West Bank. Neighboring families came out to defend the families under attack, Doughlas said, and clashes erupted between both sides. He added, however, that there were no reports of injuries.

These incidents come amid reports that Israeli military officials are concerned settlers may escalate their attacks on Palestinian civilians in response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's a 10-month, partial moratorium on settlement construction. Settlement leaders have attacked and harassed Israeli soldiers and inspectors delivering orders on the temporary lull.

Even before the partial moratorium on construction and the violent demonstrations that followed it, Israeli settlers had a "price tag" policy wherein any act preventing settlement expansion would be met with harsh resistance. In response to the dismantling of an illegal settlement outpost during the summer, settlers blocked roads, harassed Palestinian villagers and vandalized graveyards.
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