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Report: Settler violence continues in south Hebron hills

July 30, 2010 3:06 P.M. (Updated: July 30, 2010 9:48 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Israeli settlers destroyed a field of vegetables in a Bedouin village in the southern West Bank on Wednesday night, international peace groups reported.

During the night, a report said, a Palestinian farmer from Um Al-Kher village in the south Hebron hills heard noises from his garden, and thought there were animals inside. On inspection, he saw settlers walking through his field, but did not approach them for fear they were armed, he told Christian Peacemaker Teams and Operation Dove, who maintain a presence in the area.

In the morning, the farmer said he found his vegetables had been damaged, the water pipes slashed, and the fence around the field partially destroyed.

The damaged field was the primary food and economic resource for the 85-member Bedouin community, which includes around 30 children, a statement from Operation Dove explained, adding that although the farmer filed a complaint at the police station in the illegal Kiryat Arba settlement, residents are skeptical about doing so as they have never received justice in the past.

The group of international volunteers said the village, next to the illegal Karmel settlement, suffers frequent provocations by settlers. A Bedouin neighbor said this was the fourth attack on this field in two years, adding, “We set the fence up less than one year ago to protect the vegetables from damage done by settlers several times in the past.”

Settlers recently closed the village water pipes, leaving the community without water for six consecutive days. The settlers are the only ones with access to the water system, the statement added.

On Thursday, Israeli human rights group B’Tselem released the testimony of a farmer from the south Hebron hills who was violently attacked by settlers earlier this month. Shepherd Khaled Najar, 57 was grazing his flock on 1 July on private Palestinian land when a masked person approached him from an illegal settlement outpost near his village.

Najar told B’Tselem the man kicked him, knocking him to the ground, and then sat on him and beat his head with his fists and with a stone. The settler then went and spoke with an onlooking soldier.

After the incident, Najar called B’Tselem’s fieldworker in the area, who took video footage of the farmer’s injuries and called the Red Crescent to take him to hospital. B’Tselem reported that a medical examination revealed Najar had a broken nose, a fractured skill, and cuts to his head.

Settlers have assaulted Najar several times, he told B’Tselem, most seriously in 2001 when he was shot in the stomach and hospitalized at Soroka Hospital in Beersheva. In 2008, settlers beat Najar with a steel pipe, which unusually led to his two assailants facing indictment.

B'Tselem welcomed the filing of the indictment, but noted that it did not reflect usual practice, in which even when the authorities have advance knowledge that settlers intend to commit violent acts, soldiers do not act to protect Palestinians, and investigation is negligent, if it is undertaken at all.

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