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Settlers prevent Bethlehem farmers from reaching their land

Oct. 23, 2013 5:55 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 30, 2013 1:39 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli settlers and military forces prevented dozens of Palestinian farmers from reaching their land east of Bethlehem on Wednesday.

Armed settlers assaulted villagers from Tuqu while Israeli soldiers stood by and prevented them from reaching their land to harvest olives, a Ma'an reporter said.

Head of Tuqu village council Taysir Abu Mifreh said that settlers from Noqedim also used dogs to intimidate Palestinian farmers.

A confrontation developed between settlers and farmers, with Israeli soldiers intervening on behalf of the settlers, locals said.

Ziad Numan, head of the municipality of Janata village, and Naser Sbeih, a tractor driver, were arrested.

No injuries were reported.

According to a 2012 report on Israeli settler violence released by the Palestine Center, a Washington-based nonprofit, every year the olive harvest period sees the highest peak in attacks on Palestinian civilians and property.

In 2012, settlers damaged or destroyed over 7,500 olive trees between January and October, according to OCHA.

The olive industry supports the livelihoods of roughly 80,000 families in the occupied West Bank.

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