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Settlers prevent farmers from reaching land near Bethlehem

Feb. 21, 2014 5:55 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 23, 2014 5:52 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli settlers prevented Palestinian farmers from planting their lands east of Bethlehem on Friday morning.

Farmer Hassan Asakra told Ma'an that a group of farmers headed to their lands in Tuqu village, which are located near the Israeli settlement of Teqoa, accompanied by solidarity activists to plant olive trees, but settlers prevented them with the help of Israeli forces.

The group was prevented despite having permits to access the land from the liaisons office, Asakra said.

He added that settlers brought cypress saplings to plant on the land, suggesting an attempt to claim the area for themselves.

The incident is the second time this week that settlers have prevented Asakra from planting his lands, after a similar incident on Sunday.

Israeli settlers often harass Palestinian farmers who live near settlements and target local olive trees for destruction. As a result, solidarity delegations of foreigners frequently accompany local farmers to protect them from attack.

Threats and intimidation, however, often continue despite their presence.

In 2013, there were 399 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 do not lead to an indictment.
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