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Assailants destroy 45 olive trees and spray paint 'revenge' on Palestinian land

June 25, 2017 2:48 P.M. (Updated: June 28, 2017 6:06 P.M.)
Olive trees damaged in Burin (Photo" Rabbis for Human Rights)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Some 45 olive trees were found destroyed near the village of Burin, adjacent to the notorious illegal Yitzhar settlement in the northern occupied West Bank district of Nablus, while the Hebrew word for “revenge” was spray painted on a stone left in the area, an Israeli human rights organization said Sunday.

Israeli NGO Rabbis for Human Rights reported on Facebook that the damage was done adjacent to Route 60, the main highway running through the occupied West Bank.

Photos shared by the organization taken at the scene also showed an Israeli Civil Administration soldier documenting the damage. In response to a request for comment, a spokesperson from the Civil Administration told Ma’an to contact Israeli police. An Israeli police spokesperson told Ma’an they were looking into the case.
"Revenge" (Photo: Rabbis for Human Rights)
Israeli Civil Administration soldier documents damages (Photo: Rabbis for Human Rights)

The incident came amid a surge in attacks on Palestinians and their property across the occupied West Bank, targeting Palestinians near the Yitzhar settlement in particular, which is notorious for its fanatically ideological residents, and the violence inflicted on neighboring Palestinian communities.

Several attacks have been carried out in villages near to Yitzhar in recent months, many of them in the presence of Israeli forces who did not intervene. Extremist settlers from Yitzhar have also recently attacked Israeli army soldiers with impunity.

Israeli news daily Haaretz said in a report on Sunday that, despite settlers having been caught on camera attacking Palestinians in a number of these incidents, the assailants have evaded criminal charges in every case and that there has been no evidence that any suspects were detained for questioning.

When asked to comment on past incidents of settlers attacking Palestinians in the area around Yitzhar, Israeli army spokespeople have told Ma’an that Israeli forces had “dispersed the gathering to prevent any escalation of violence,” but did not comment on whether any legal action was being taken against the assailants.

A number of Palestinians, including a 72-year-old woman and a shepherd, have been hospitalized since April following attacks near Yitzhar, with a number of Palestinians having being shot by Israeli forces who arrived to the scene to “disperse” the clashes.

Haaretz’s report stressed that “in the incidents that were filmed, one can clearly see soldiers either failing to act or simply trying to separate the two sides. The soldiers had the authority to detain the assailants but didn’t do so, and also failed to find out who they were afterward.”

Palestinian activists and rights groups have repeatedly accused Israel of fostering a “culture of impunity” for Israeli settlers and soldiers committing violent acts against Palestinians, while Palestinians face up to 20 years in prison for throwing stones if intent to harm could be proven, and face a minimum prison sentence of three years for throwing a stone at an Israeli.

Israel has meted out harsh prison sentences to scores of Palestinians, including minors, for rock throwing in recent months.

In March, Israeli NGO Yesh Din revealed that Israeli authorities served indictments in only 8.2 percent of cases of Israeli settlers committing anti-Palestinian crimes in the occupied West Bank in the past three years -- in comparison to a 90 to 99 percent conviction rate for Palestinians in Israeli military courts.

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, including East Jerusalem, in 2016, with 65 attacks being reported since the start of 2017.
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