Palestinians and Settlers Clash Over Damaged West Bank Trees

Settlers accuse Palestinians of starting 2 fires near Yitzhar; Palestinians accuse the settlers of starting the fires after violently confronting them.

Settlers from Yitzhar and Palestinians from villages south of Nablus clashed several times on Wednesday, each side accusing the other of setting fires to trees and crops.

Settlers accused Palestinians of setting two fires yesterday near Yitzhar, to the south and the west, which caused damage to vines belonging to a settler there.

Palestinians try to extinguish fires started by settlers

The Palestinians, from the villages of Inbus, Asira al-Kablya and Aurif, said that the settlers had started the fighting when they set fire to crops and hundreds of olive trees.

In response to the Palestinian charges, the settlers said that it was they who had responded to Palestinian arson, and when they moved toward Inbus from Yitzhar they encountered close to 100 Palestinians. The two sides began throwing stones at each other, and one Palestinian was injured. A border police unit that arrived in the area separated the two groups and arrested suspected arsonists.

A spokesman for the settlement of Yitzhar, Avraham Benyamin, said that the arson by the Palestinians was a planned provocation, and that television crews had positioned themselves on nearby village rooftops in order to document the arrival of the settlers.

"This is yet another evil attempt by the Arabs and the leftist activists to present the settlers in bad form. We are all witness to the efforts by the Arabs and the radical left to demonize the Israel Defense Forces and the State of Israel. What happened in Yitzhar during the past day is part of this trend," Benyamin said.

One of the Arab villagers, Asan Da'alas, said that some 100 dunams of cultivated land was set ablaze in an area that belongs to Yitzhar, near the villages of Urf and Asira al-Kablya. He said that dozens of Arab villagers had tried to put out the blaze but were attacked by settlers. He said the army used tear gas to break up the clashes.