itamar - Daniel Bar-On - September 21 2011
The West Bank settlement of Itamar. Photo by Daniel Bar-On
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Israeli settlers and Palestinian villagers threw stones at each other yesterday, a day after Palestinian officials said settlers burned dozens of acres of agricultural land and cut down several hundred olive, fig and almond trees.

The major clash yesterday came as residents of Yitzhar in the northern West Bank gathered on a hilltop overlooking several Palestinian communities, including nearby Assira al-Kibliya, and shouted slogans. Palestinian villagers arrived, and the two sides started throwing stones, he said. The Israeli military arrived and the settlers withdrew.

Settlers said Palestinians started marching on Yitzhar, while the army said the settlers went down the hill toward the village and started throwing rocks. The IDF arrived in force at one point, the settlers fled and troops used tear gas to disperse the Palestinians. The IDF confirmed there had been a clash.

Settlers had planned protest marches in three West Bank locations yesterday. Some 30 people came out in Beit El and 200 in Itamar. The march from Itamar was supposed to end at a nearby base, but a few dozen young settlers continued farther.

On the Palestinian side, there have been few signs of enthusiasm for the statehood application. Students and civil servants are to be bused to rallies planned today in Ramallah, in an apparent attempt by authorities to ensure a high turnout.

Settlers are preparing for the Palestinian demonstrations today. Settlements near Ramallah have banned Palestinian workers from entering for the next three days. Settler leaders said there has been an large increase in stone throwing at cars on main roads by Palestinians, and said the IDF's presence is inadequate.