BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinian farmers in the South Hebron Hills awoke on Thursday to find wheat they had recently harvested lit on fire, in what they suspect may have been an attack by extremist Jewish settlers from a nearby outpost, a local peace group reported.
Farmers in the village of Qawawis reached their fields around 4:30 a.m. on Thursday morning to discover three tons of wheat burning on their property, close to the Israeli-only road 316 and the settler outpost of Mitzpe Yair, near Susiya, Operation Dove said in a statement.
The wheat had been harvested only the day before and collected into a pile on the field, but by the time farmers arrived the entire crop had been burned to the ground.
Activists from Operation Dove arrived on the scene around 5:00 a.m., at which time Israeli police and soldiers had arrived on the scene with a fireman, who only began extinguishing the fire about 15 minutes later, according to the group. The locals later filed a complaint with Israeli authorities in the Kiryat Arba police station.
The village of Qawawis is located in an area under direct Israeli military control and is surrounded by some of the most violent Jewish-only outposts in the West Bank.
Settlers from Mitzpe Yair have frequently attempted to prevent Palestinians from nearby communities from farming on their land, and the outpost itself is built on land illegally confiscated from a local villager.
Located in Area C, Palestinians in the South Hebron hills suffer from extreme electricity and water shortages and face violent intimidation from the Israeli army and radical settlers.
Less than 1 percent of Area C has been planned for Palestinian development, while some 135 settlements and over 100 outposts have been built in the same area.