HEBRON (Ma'an) -- Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian farmers and their families in the Wadi Abu al-Reesh area in the southern West Bank near Beit Ummar on Saturday evening, a local spokesperson said.
Muhammad Ayyad Awad, a spokesman for Beit Ummar's local committee against settlement activities, told Ma'an that settlers wearing masks and white uniforms threw stones at farmers and swore at them both in Arabic and Hebrew.
Awad highlighted that some of the attackers carried rifles.
The farmers had to leave their fields immediately because many of them were accompanied by their children and they were worried for their safety, added Awad.
Israeli troops arrived, he said, to protect the attackers.
The soldiers watched as settlers vandalized olive trees and instead of stopping them, the soldiers inspected the identity cards of the Palestinian farmers and prevented them from taking photos with their mobile phones.
The mayor of Beit Ummar Nasri Sabarnah arrived along with officers from the Palestinian military liaison who documented the attack and received an official complaint from the mayor.
In 2012, there were 353 incidents of settler violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Over 90 percent of investigations into settler violence by Israeli police fail to lead to an indictment.
More than 500,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.
The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.