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Settlers 'torch land' in northern West bank

May 29, 2012 11:27 A.M. (Updated: June 3, 2012 4:13 P.M.)
TULKAREM (Ma'an) -- Palestinian firefighters on Tuesday extinguished a blaze started by Israeli settlers near Tulkarem in the northern West Bank, civil defense officials said.

Fire crews were called to Qaffin to put out a huge blaze which had damaged hundreds of acres of olive groves, the civil defense said in a statement.

It said residents of the Israeli settlement Hermesh claimed to have started the fire to clear 100 acres of land, but that the blaze spread out of control.

Civil defense director Nidal al-Jalad said it was a "farce" that Israeli soldiers protected settlers who attacked Palestinians and their land. He urged the International Red Cross to intervene.

Al-Jalad also said farmers who neglected their land gave settlers an excuse to carry out attacks.

On Saturday, an Israeli settler shot and wounded a Palestinian man in a clash that began when a group of settlers set fire to fields near Nablus.

Najeh al-Safadi, 22, was handcuffed by a guard from the illegal settlement of Yitzhar who threw him to the ground and shot him while other settlers kicked him, a relative said.

Muntaser al-Safadi said people from his village, Urif, which is near Nablus in the northern West Bank, arrived and rescued the young man. He was transferred to Rafidia hospital with severe injuries.

Residents said about 25 settlers, some of them carrying guns, set fire to wheat fields and an olive grove near the Urif school. Settlers fired at people who were trying to put out the fire, they said.

Villagers came out to extinguish the fire and ended up clashing with the settlers, said Nablus official Ghassan Daghlas. Eight people were injured and four of them were hospitalized, he told Ma'an.

An Israeli military spokesman confirmed that a settler shot and wounded one Palestinian, adding that security forces were sent to the scene to break up the violence.

"The Israel Defense Forces regards this incident as severe and will thoroughly investigate it," the spokesman said.

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