Jewish Settlers Caught and Beaten After Trespassing in Palestinian Village

Incident follows the uprooting by Civil Administration officials of settler olive trees planted on Arab land.

Chaim Levinson
Jack Khoury
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Chaim Levinson
Jack Khoury

A group of more than 10 settlers from the outpost of Esh Kodesh, in the Nablus area, were apprehended and beaten by Palestinian villagers on Tuesday after trespassing on their land. The settlers were later handed over to the Israel Defense Forces.

Palestinian eyewitness said that about 18 settlers who were destroying village property were surrounded and held in a building under construction between the villages of Kusra and Jalloud. 

One of the injured settlers later claimed that the group had merely been on a hike. 

"I don't know what the Arabs are complaining about," said Pinchasi Bar-On in an interview with Army Radio. "Of the 30 Jews who went on the hike, all 30 were injured. I am currently in hospital after Arabs hit me with a 5 kg mallet and I have four other wounds from stone-throwing."

The incident began on Tuesday morning, when Civil Administration officials arrived at the outpost to uproot olive trees that had been planted on private Palestinian land. Based on the experience of previous such incidents, residents of the surrounding Palestinian villagers immediately organized themselves into security details.

In the early afternoon, the Esh Kodesh settlers, some of whom were activists known to the police, arrived at the village of Kfar Kusra. The infiltrators, who were masked and wore gloves, were apprehended by the security detail of about 30 villagers, who surrounded them and began to beat them.

The incident lasted for about an hour. The settlers, who did not have telephones with them, could not request help. Eventually, the Kfar Kusra villagers handed them over to the Palestinian security services, who transferred them to the Israel Defense Forces.

The settlers, some with wounds from the beating, were taken away by the soldiers and are currently in military custody. It is not known what the army intends to do with them.

Nablus Governor General Jibrin al-Bakri said that the villagers had shown extreme bravery in preventing the settlers from destroying their property and emphasized that the settlers had been handed over to the Palestinian security forces, who in turn transferred them to the IDF.

It was the first instance in which Palestinians succeeded in in capturing settlers in the act of destroying their property. Official Palestinian sources told Haaretz that the Palestinian Authority will leverage the incident in order to publicize the aggression of the settlers and to highlight the full cooperation of the Palestinian services with their Israeli counterparts.

Kusra villagers saw Tuesday's events as a significant achievement in the face of what they described as the army's passivity in preventing "settler aggression." They added that they would continue organizing security details to prevent such incidents in the future.

"After a [Civil Administration] action at the illegal outpost of Esh Kodesh this morning, a group of Israeli civilians entered the villages of Kursa and Krayot, with the intention of harming the villagers," said a spokesman of the NGO Yesh Din in response to the incident. "The Palestinians themselves reported the incident to the security forces and requested that they arrive to arrest the attackers. The attackers were taken by the army and we hope that, in contrast to previous incidents, they will be transferred to the police for investigation and clarification about what they were doing in the village."

"Settler retaliation against Palestinians following action [by the civil administration] has become a regular and well-known phenomenon, particularly in that area," Yesh Din added. "The fact that the IDF was not deployed to protect the Palestinian villagers is symptomatic of a policy that completely abandons the Palestinian residents of the area and ignores the basic duty of the IDF as the sovereign authority in the area."

"Unfortunately, past experience teaches us that today's incident will be followed by further revenge attacks against Palestinians. We expect the security forces to deploy as necessary in order to avoid all harm to the local residents."

Palestinian surrounding Israeli settlers near Nablus, January 7, 2013.Credit: AP
Settlers injured during the Kfar Kursa incident on Tuesday.Credit: Zachariah, Rabbis for Human RIghts