Israelis Attack School in Palestinian Village, Torch Olive Groves

IDF arrests four assailants from illegal settlement near Shilo, but pupils say at least 20 settlers involved.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

A group of Israelis, seemingly settlers from the area of the illegal outposts east of Shilo, attacked a school in the West Bank village of Jalud Wednesday and set olive groves on fire.

Around noon, the arsonists broke into the village’s elementary school and threw rocks at the classrooms as well as at five parked cars belonging to teachers. At the same time, another group, or groups, set fires in the village’s olive groves. The Palestinian fire service, which arrived from Nablus, said about 400 trees were damaged. The combined attack succeeded even though army sources told Haaretz that IDF forces were reinforced in the area due to a heightened threat of violence.

Jalud is surrounded by the illegal outposts Esh Kodesh, Adi Ad, Ahiya and Shvut Rahel, which are only a few hundred meters, and as little as a few dozen meters, away from houses in the village.

On the militantly pro-settler Kol Yehudi Internet site, it was reported that the attack on the village was made “after the IDF destroyed Givat Geulat Zion in the morning,” an illegal outpost that was established two years ago and in which, according to the website, two families live.

IDF sources said “upon receiving the report on the event, security forces were sent out and even managed to arrest four suspects, some during a chase.” A man who said he was responsible for guarding the area of the settlements called the chairman of the Jalud village council and told him, via one of the Rabbis for Civil Rights activists who were there, that four young men were arrested. On the Kol Yehudi website it said three youths form Adi Ad were arrested. But when speaking with Haaretz, students at the village school estimated that just in the attack on the school, at least 20 people participated, and they did not look like minors. The students said that when the Israeli attackers broke into the courtyard and came close to the school, the teachers quickly locked the classroom doors while children in the lower grades cried and shouted.

Area known for settler attacks

About 4:30 P.M. the smell of the fire was still in the air. In the schoolyard there were stones scattered around, but the owners of the five damaged cars had already taken them off to be repaired. The head of the local council, Abdallah Haj Mohammed, told Haaretz that he knew of at least one source of fire near Shvut Rahel, adding that the heat and wind drove the fire quickly up the slope. He did not know it there were other starting points of the arson.

Palestinian firefighters arrived after an hour while local residents had already started to put out the fires themselves. Some 45 minutes after the fires were set and the school broken into, Israeli police and army forces arrived. Residents said at first the soldiers tried to block their way to the olive groves, evidently out of fear the Palestinians intended to reach the illegal outposts. But when they realized the residents only wanted to put out the fire, the troops let them through.

The area is known for its large number of attacks by settlers against Palestinian villagers and their land. From 2001 to 2007, soldiers and settlers blocked Jalud residents from tending most of their land. In 2007 they were allowed to farm their groves, hard by the illegal outposts, but only in coordination with the army, and only twice a year for a few days each time.

A settler scuffles with Palestinians: The area is well-known for settler attacks.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

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