Unidentified individuals set fire to a car overnight Wednesday, and left racist messages on a wall in a Palestinian neighborhood close to the West Bank settlement Beit El. The vandals attempted to set a second car on fire as well.
Members of the Soboch family, residents of a neighborhood in the southern part of a village called Dura Al-Qarah, were woken up at around 2:30 A.M. by the sound of a car alarm, and the smell of a burning car. The family discovered that Nur a-Din Soboch's car was on fire. Palestinian firefighters only arrived on the scene half an hour later, as they needed permission from the Israel Defense Forces to enter territory marked Area C. While the firefighters were waiting for clearance, family members and neighbors attempted to put out the flames, before they reached the car's gas tank.
Flammable materials were also found, extinguished, next to Hatam Soboch's car. Both cars were parked next to the family's home, which houses some 20 people – four brothers with wives and children, and the mother of the family, in her eighties.
A message was found sprayed on one of the walls of the family's house, which read "death to the enemy, freedom for the homeland, price tag Migron, vengeance against Arabs, regards from those banished." The word Migron was also found sprayed on both cars.
The West Bank outpost of Migron is due to be evacuated, in accordance with a High Court ruling earlier this year. 'Price tag' refers to a practice by Jewish extremists of accosting Palestinian property - and more recently, Israeli military bases - in retaliation for Israeli government action against settlers.
Police, Shin Bet, and IDF forces arrived on the scene twice, once at 6:30 A.M., and again at 8 A.M., and collected evidence from the scene. Palestinian security forces, dressed in civilian clothing, arrived on the scene shortly after the firefighters, but left immediately, locals told Haaretz.
A double barbed-wire fence and concrete barriers separate the Palestinian neighborhood from the nearby Jewish settlement. IDF cameras facing the Palestinian homes are mounted on poles along the length of the fence. Settlement homes sit atop a nearby hill, between 20 and 30 meters from the Palestinian homes.
In March 2011, unidentified individuals set fire to a truck and a car in the same neighborhood. Residents reported that stones are thrown at them from the settlement on a regular basis – stones have piled up on the roofs of homes close to the barrier. Sometimes, glass panels, windows, or roof-mounted water heaters are broken by stones thrown from the settlement.
Neighborhood residents said that students from the nearby boarding school in the settlement are mostly responsible for the stones, as well as frequent curses shouted in Arabic, and shouts of "go to Saudia Arabia," or "go to Jordan."
Residents of the "agricultural neighborhood," as it is called, are refugees from the 1948 War of Independence that purchased the land from the village of Dura Al-Qarah, and built their homes there roughly 40 years ago. The Soboch family is originally from a village called Sumeil, now moshav Nahla, north of Kiryat Gat.
Members of the Soboch family and their neighbors claim that with the IDF cameras, it should be not difficult to determine who set the fires, both in March 2011, and on Wednesday, but the settlers do not fear any repercussions, as the authorities are on their side. "Do you mean to tell me that all the states of the Middle East fear Israel because of its military might, and it can't stop these settlers?" asked Hiri, an engineer, working in Saudi Arabia, who arrived to visit his family three days ago.
The settlement of Beit El has expanded, and its borders reached the "agricultural neighborhood," in the early 1990s. Neighborhood residents said, "our problem with the settlers started after the peace," meaning, after the Oslo agreements were signed.
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