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3 Israelis from notorious Yitzhar settlement arrested after attacking soldiers

June 26, 2017 10:40 A.M. (Updated: June 28, 2017 6:09 P.M.)
Israeli settlers stage a sit-in in an attempt to prevent Palestinians from working in their fields in the village of Jalud on January 2, 2013. (Photo: AFP/Jaafar Ashtiyeh, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces reportedly detained three right-wing Israeli settlers from the illegal Yitzhar settlement in the northern occupied West Bank district of Nablus after the settlers attacked Israeli authorities that were dismantling an illegally built structure.

Israeli news daily Haaretz reported that no one was injured in the incident, during which the settlers also blocked a road to Israeli military vehicles.

Hours prior to the incident, some 45 olive trees were found destroyed in the nearby Palestinian village of Burin located just north of Yitzhar. The assailants also spray painted the Hebrew word for “revenge” on a stone left in the area of the damaged trees.

According to Haaretz, the Israeli military said it was investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.

Later Sunday evening, a group of settlers from Yitzhar hurled rocks at about eight Israeli soldiers who came to take down a “temporary structure” that was built without permits. When more soldiers arrived, as well as border police and members of Israeli Civil Administration, settlers threw rocks at them too, Haaretz said, adding that Israeli forces responded by firing stun grenades to disperse the attackers.

Haaretz cited an Israeli army statement that confirmed the three arrests, adding that the assailants “used verbal violence against the security forces.”

The statement reportedly added that the army “views with severity any harm to security forces carrying out their jobs and protecting area residents. The security forces will continue to act to enforce law and order in Judea and Samaria,” using the Israeli term for the occupied West Bank.

The arrests marked a rare instance of Israeli settlers being held accountable for acts of violence.

According to Haaretz, no one has been arrested over a series of violent attacks on Palestinians and their property over the past few months -- many that have been filmed or took place in the presence of Israeli forces -- around Yitzhar, which is notorious for its fanatically ideological residents, and the violence inflicted on neighboring Palestinian communities.

Recent incidents of settlers in the area attacking Israeli army personnel have also gone unpunished.

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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