Israeli Army Blamed Palestinians for West Bank Arson, but Settler Soldier Is Behind It

One of the two settlers filmed setting fire to a field is an Israeli soldier who was on leave at the time ■ IDF initially blamed Palestinians, then admitted soldiers were involved too

One of the settlers seen setting fields on fire in B'Tselem's documentation.
B'Tselem / Screengrab

One of the two Jewish settlers caught on video setting West Bank fields on fire last Friday is an Israel Defense Forces soldier, Haaretz has learned. 

The army knows the identity of the settler, who was filmed by Israeli human rights nonprofit organization B'Tselem, and two security sources confirmed the details, saying that the soldier was on leave when the arson took place. 

According to the military, the Israel Police are expected to handle the incident. The police said that they have yet to arrest the soldier. 

>> Read more: Israeli police extracted after settlers attack them in West Bank ■ Israeli army blamed Palestinians for arson by settlers. Then a video emerged ■ Israeli soldiers stand by as settlers pelt Palestinians with rocks ■ I was a settler. I know how settlers become killers | Opinion

Clashes broke out last Friday in the area between the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar and the nearby Palestinian villages of Burin, Urif and Asira al-Qibliya, with settlers and Palestinians accusing each other of setting farm fields on fire. On Thursday, the Israeli military admitted that Jewish settlers set the fire, changing its story after it originally blamed the arson on Palestinians.

The Israel Defense Forces' Spokesperson's Unit confirmed that settlers, too, were responsbile for the blazes after B'Tselem published the video clip on Wednesday that shows that the settlers took part in igniting the fires. 

B'Tselem's video shows that at least two settlers set fields on fire. Another video shows settlers at Yitzhar fields, lighting fires that quickly spread.

Changing its version following the videos' publication, the Israeli military stated that "several fires were set and quickly spread" in the West Bank, and that at the same time, "about 20 residents went down to the outskirts of the village of Asira al-Qibliya and began throwing stones.”

On Saturday, dozens of extreme right-wing masked activists assaulted police near Yitzhar and threw stones and other objects at policemen and their van, puncturing the tires of two manned police vehicles.

No one was arrested in this incident nor in the arsons or the other incidents. 

In another video taken by Palestinians during the confrontations, settlers are seen standing close to a home in a Palestinian village and throwing rocks at nearby houses. Four soldiers can be seen standing among the settlers and doing nothing to stop them.

The IDF also said it put up a fence between Yitzhar and Urif after settlers assaulted villagers on April 13. In that incident, settlers were filmed throwing rocks at a vehicle driven by a Palestinian family. In addition to the fence, the Border Police increased its presence in the area