Jewish settlers and Palestinians clashed on Saturday in a West Bank village near Nablus, and Palestinian residents say masked men threw stones and broke into a chicken farm in Qusra, causing damage to it. Israeli police have launched an investigation into the incident, which follows several recent clashes between settlers and Palestinians in the area.
Qusra residents claim a group of three settlers came to an area southeast of Qusra, near the Israeli outpost of Esh Kodesh, where Palestinian farmers were working the land. One of them, the residents say, threw a stone that hit one of the farmers in the back. In response, one of the Palestinians at the scene hit one of the settlers with a shovel.
Settlers claim, however, clashes began after Palestinians torched a Jewish-owned vineyard near Esh Kodesh. They say Palestinians pelted residents of the outpost with stones when they arrived at the vineyard to put out the fire.
Afterwards, according to Palestinian accounts of the incident, masked settlers threw stones at three Palestinian-owned farms, damaging water tanks, a tractor and a henhouse. Photos and CCTV footage show the masked men entering the chicken farm and kicking some the animals.
According to Palestinian rights NGO Yesh Din, some 200 chickens died as a result. Some of the suffocated after settlers allegedly damaged the ventilation system, while others were crushed during the break-in.
Then, Palestinians say, youth from Qusra began throwing stones at the settlers to scare them away. At that point, Israeli soldiers arrived at the scene and tear gassed the Palestinian youth.
During the clashes, Palestinian youth uprooted settler-owned vines. Nati Rom, who lives in Esh Kodesh, said residents of the outpost filed a police complaint over the incident, and the local council said it "calls on security forces to… bring back deterrence to the area."
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The Israeli army confirmed "reports of violent clashes between dozens of settlers and dozens of Palestinians in several spots near the village of Qusra… Israel Defense Forces and Border Police fighters who arrived at the scene acted to disperse the crowd and prevent further violence."
Lior Amihai, executive director of Yesh Din, said that on the eve of the Yom Kippur holiday, "Settlers are rampaging and hurting Palestinian farmers and their livestock, smashing windshields and imposing horror on the residents of Qusra."
He continued, "This violence is allowed by those who are supposed to be the enforcers of law, but in practice do next to nothing, except provide protection to the rioters themselves and give a false impression of enforcement, instead of stopping the rioters and bringing them to justice. This is apartheid and this is dangerous ideological violence that regularly plays out in the West Bank. We must put an end to this."