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Israeli settlers torch olive trees after illegal outpost evacuated south of Nablus

Sept. 24, 2017 1:33 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 25, 2017 10:20 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli settlers site fire to a grove of olive trees on privately-owned Palestinian land in the northern occupied West Bank on Sunday morning, shortly after Israeli forces evacuated an illegal settlement outpost in the area, according to an Israeli NGO.

A spokesperson for Yesh Din, a human rights organization working in the occupied Palestinian territory, told Ma'an that officers from the Israeli Civil Administration and the Israeli army had arrived to evacuate the small outpost, which consisted of three tents and a building near the village of Kafr Qalil south of Nablus city.

In response to the eviction, settlers later torched a number of olive trees belonging to Palestinian resident of Kafr Qalil.

Israeli newspaper Times of Israel reported that an Israeli settler was arrested after he sicced his dog on an Israeli border officer during the demolition of the so-called Ein Amsha outpost. The border guard was hospitalized after being bit on the leg.

The report quoted an Israeli police statement as saying that: “During the eviction [of the building], the troops dealt with barriers that had been set up, fires that were started and violence by dozens of rioters that were in the area."

“The peak was when the dog was sicced on a Border Police officer by one of the rioters,” the statement added.

According to Times of Israel, the dog’s owner fled the scene and was apprehended and arrested after a short foot chase. The dog was reportedly still at large.

Two other police officers were also lightly injured by during the violent protests against the demolition, and were treated on the scene, the report said, adding that a second suspect was arrested at the scene for allegedly attacking border guards.

Many Palestinian activists and rights groups have accused Israel of fostering a “culture of impunity” for Israeli settlers committing violent acts against Palestinians and even Israeli forces. Palestinian leadership has also noted the double standard in Israeli police's light use of force when evacuating illegal Israeli settlements, compared to the violent raids that occur when Palestinian structures are destroyed.

In March, 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.

Yesh Din reported on Monday on Facebook that an illegal settlement outpost was set up about two months ago on the land near Kafr Qalil. The outpost was subsequently taken down by the Israeli army, but two days later, three tents were erected in the same location, and as of Monday there was a building set up by the settlers.

The Palestinian landowner also told Yesh Din that a shepherd from Kafr Qalil recently tried to reach the land and was chased back by the settlers.

The organization highlighted that its documentation of "ideologically motivated crimes" committed by Israeli citizens against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, has "revealed that the existence of unauthorized outposts creates growing circles of violence against Palestinians living and farming in the vicinity."

Yesh Din said in the statement last Monday that a week prior, unidentified assailants had sprayed graffiti on the walls of a quarry near to Kafr Qalil. Among other things, one message in Hebrew read, "Muhammed is a pig," according to the group.

Last Wednesday, the Yesh Din also documented that eight fruit trees were uprooted near the illegal Israeli settlement of Yitzhar, located south of Kafr Qalil, and that days after that, 12 olive trees belonging to a Kafr Qalil farmer were chopped down.

The group said that Israeli forces had not apprehended any suspects over the incidents.

Settlers from Yitzhar and other nearby illegal Israeli settlements and outposts are well-known to be some of the most extremist Israelis living in the West Bank, and have burned hundreds of Palestinian-owned olive trees over the years.

There are some 196 government recognized Israeli settlements scattered across the Palestinian territory, all considered illegal under international law, while hundreds of unauthorized Israeli settler outposts -- considered illegal even under Israeli law -- also dot the Palestinian landscape.

While Israel considers settler outposts to be illegal, earlier this year, Israel passed the outpost "Regularization law," which paved the way for the retroactive legalization of dozens of Israeli settler outposts, while loosening restrictions on settlers erecting outposts on private Palestinian land.

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