For the second time in a little over a week, olive harvesting in the West Bank erupted into a skirmish on Thursday morning. Five people were injured as Shvut Rachel residents and Palestinians faced off over ownership of a local olive grove.
The fracas erupted around 9 a.m., when Palestinian olive pickers arrived at a grove near the Binyamin-area settlement of Shvut Rachel. At the scene, a fight broke out between approximately 20 Palestinians and a similar number of Israelis whom the Palestinians claimed were from Shvut Rachel.
The Palestinian olive-harvesters said that they were attacked first by the Israelis. The two sides both claimed ownership of the olive grove which the Palestinians were harvesting. Police and IDF units arrived on the scene, but only after three Palestinians and two Israelis were injured in the scuffle. Police took testimony both from the five injured people as well as from others who were involved in the fight.
Immediately following the incident, the IDF activated a directive that froze all access to the site by both Palestinians and Israelis in an attempt to prevent further fights. Neither party returned to harvest olives at that site Thursday.
The Samaria and Judea Police said later that they had clarified the matter of ownership with the Civil Administration, which said that part of the grove did in fact belong to the Palestinians, but that other parts of the grove belonged to Israeli citizens, and that a third part belonged to the government. The police said that they were trying to clarify whether the Palestinians had crossed over into part of the grove that was not theirs.
According to the organization Yesh Din, which opened a special update center to document incidents during the harvest season, another human rights organization, Rabbis for Human Rights, had approached the grove on Wednesday to gain permission for the harvesters to work in that area.
Later Thursday, the Samaria and Judea District Central Investigative Unit arrested one of the recipients of the general's restraining order after he allegedly violated the terms of the order.
This was the second instance in eight days in which fights broke out over the olive harvest in the West Bank. Last week, a fight broke out at the Samarian outpost of Havat Gilad, near Nablus, on Wednesday morning, as Israelis and Palestinians traded rocks and insults in a confrontation that left five injured.