The Israeli military admitted on Thursday that Jewish settlers set West Bank fields on fire last Friday, changing its version 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 Israeli human rights nonprofit organization B'Tselem published on Wednesday a video clip that shows that the settlers took part in igniting the fires.
Clashes broke out on 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.
In one 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.
In a written statement, the Israeli army originally said that together with Border Police troops and civilian volunteers, it had worked to extinguish "a fire set by Palestinians near Asira al-Qibliya" that was "approaching Yitzhar and a military outpost."
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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.”
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