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Israeli soldiers assault Palestinian farmers protesting illegal settlement road

May 7, 2017 4:03 P.M. (Updated: May 7, 2017 10:46 P.M.)
Israeli soldiers assault Palestinian farmers protest illegal road construction (Screenshot: Rabbis for Human Rights)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli settlers assaulted Palestinian farmers in the the village of Turmusayya in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah on Sunday, after the farmers arrived to protest the illegal construction of an Israeli settler road on privately owned Palestinian land.

Despite an order from the Israeli Civil Administration to stop building the road, Israeli settlers continued to pave the road, according to the Israeli organization Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR).

A video published by RHR showed Israeli soldiers assaulting the Palestinian residents, while enabling settlers to carry out the roadwork in defiance of the stop-work order issued last week by the Civil Administration, which is the unit under the Israeli Defense Ministry responsible for enforcing Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Israeli soldiers also attacked RHR's field coordinator Zakharia Sade who documented the incident, according to the group. Some Palestinians who arrived to the work site also reportedly climbed atop farm machinery, the Israeli army told RHR.

According to RHR, the Israeli Civil Administration had prohibited the work to continue after it was determined the maps from which the settlers were working were no longer valid.

In addition, the planned road is being built on privately owned Palestinian land, some of which is cultivated, and thus the work will likely harm the agriculture of the Palestinian residents, RHR warned.

"Although the soldiers were notified that this work was forbidden by the Israel Army's Civil Administration, and that the continuation of the paving is expected to harm agricultural work, their reaction was aggressive and they were unwilling to listen," RHR wrote in a statement.
"Time and again, we witness that even in rare incidents when the Civil Administration defends private Palestinian lands, soldiers on the ground are not on the same page, and rather suppress a justified protest."

The Israeli government has confiscated hundreds of dunams of land from Turmusayya to establish two illegal Israeli settlements, Shilo to the north and Mizpe Rahel to the east, inhabited by more than 2,500 Israeli settlers, according to the Applied Research Institute - Jerusalem (ARIJ).

“Attacks carried out by Israeli settlers living in the illegal settlements around Turmusayya have had a serious and significant impact on the town people and their property. These attacks allow settlers to control more Palestinian land adjacent to the settlements by preventing landowners from accessing it,” the group said in a report on the village.

In January, four Israeli settlers were arrested over charges of "racially motivated assault with intention to harm" for attacks on Palestinians in Turmusayya. Two days later, Israeli settlers damaged 12 olive trees belonging to Palestinians near Turmusayya.

Many Palestinian activists and rights groups have accused Israel of fostering a “culture of impunity” for Israeli settlers and soldiers committing violent acts against Palestinians, who are rarely held accountable for their actions.

Attacks by settlers are often carried out under the armed protection of Israeli forces, who rarely make efforts to protect Palestinians from such attacks, and even commit acts of violent acts on Palestinians themselves.

Between 500,000 and 600,000 Israelis live in Jewish-only settlements across occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank in violation of international law, with recent announcements of settlement expansion provoking condemnation from the international community.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there were a total of 107 reported settler attacks against Palestinians and their properties in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem in 2016.

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