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Settlers torch crops in Bethlehem village

Oct. 19, 2010 2:42 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 20, 2010 12:23 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli settlers set fire to Palestinian crops on farmland in the Husan village in the southern West Bank district of Bethlehem, burning vast areas of olive groves before firefighters were able to control the blaze, locals said.

Locals said Israeli residents of the nearby illegal Betar Illit settlement obstructed Palestinian firefighters from accessing the site of the blaze, causing the fire to spread extensively.

A local village council source said grape and olive groves were damaged in the arson, largely in the Ein At-Taqa area, adding that bare-footed farmers were unable to extinguish the fire and that several sustained light burns as a result.

The local council also said the farmland in question belong to Ibrahim Lafi Hamara, Hilmi Abdul-Fattah Darweesh and Lafi Nimir Shawasha.

The fire follows the release of a report by Israeli rights group Yesh Din Tuesday, detailing that over 90 percent of investigations into offenses against Palestinians carried out by Israeli settlers in the West Bank fail, a statement read.

Yesh Din's statistic was part of a report that suggested Israeli authorities have failed to prosecute Israeli settlers suspected of vandalizing Palestinian crops.

The rights group said that while monitoring the progress of 97 complaints filed against Israeli settlers for damage caused to Palestinian-owned trees, all have been closed by police on the grounds of "unknown perpetrator" or insufficient evidence to prosecute, failing to secure indictments.

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