Settlers on Friday attacked three Israeli activists who were helping Palestinians harvest olives in the West Bank, beating the activists with clubs, hurling stones at them and injuring them lightly, the activists said.
At the town of Surif near Hebron, Israeli soldiers were guarding the farmers but left at noon, the activists added. Then settlers from the nearby settlement of Bat Ayin arrived at the groves and attacked the activists and farmers, who threw stones at the settlers in return.
"At the beginning of the day, large contingents of military forces were present at the harvest, but three hours later the soldiers just disappeared," said Gil Hammerschlag, one of the activists. "We saw masked youths watching us from the settlement. They were holding clubs, and the settlement's security coordinator was standing next to them."
Hammerschlag said Rabbi Arik Ascherman, from the group Rabbis for Human Rights, called for the army to intervene, but to no avail. Ascherman said he was hurt in the head by a stone thrown by a settler.
"They came down and began attacking us," Hammerschlag said. "They came at us with clubs. One of the activists was hit in the head and taken to a clinic in Surif."
At one point an army jeep arrived, Hammerschlag said, adding that the soldiers "waited inside the jeep for a few minutes for the settlers to escape, and only then did they get out of the vehicle." In a similar clash just a week before, Hammerschlag was attacked in the same spot.
On Wednesday, two Palestinians were wounded by gunfire and five were injured by stones in clashes in the South Hebron Hills following the establishment of an illegal outpost in the area.
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Left-wing activists at the scene said settlers shot at the Palestinians; Israeli soldiers were in the area intermittently but were not present during the shooting. Also, three windows of three Palestinian cars were shattered in the incident.
"Jewish terrorists are trying to force a reality of Jewish supremacy in the territories and don't hesitate to raise a hand at a farmer, an activist or an officer," the director of Rabbis for Human Rights, Avi Dabush, said in a statement.
"Those who ignore these actions over and over will soon find themselves with armed militias' committing Jewish terrorism, which have cost lives in the past. It's time for decision-makers to stop with the gentle rhetoric and take a firm hand against the assailants. Until then the blood will be on their hands as well."