(photo credit: REUTERS)
Settlers and Palestinian farmers clashed in the West Bank settlement of Itamar on Sunday morning, as the IDF tried to escort the farmers to olive trees located within the community’s boundaries, during the annual olive harvest.
Settlers charged that the army acted irresponsibly in not informing the settlement that it would allow the Palestinians to enter the settlement.
It was particularly problematic, settlers said, because the Palestinians in question were from the nearby village of Awarta, the home of the two young men who in March infiltrated Itamar and killed five members of the Fogel family. Settlers claimed some of the Palestinians in question were relatives of the two killers.
“Frightened mothers called me to say that as they were taking their children to school they saw Palestinians in the settlement,” said Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Mesika. “It was done without coordination with me, or with anyone else. It was an ‘irresponsible’ decision to do this just half a year” after the murder of the Fogel family, he said.
“A year ago, exactly, I warned the army commanders and the Civil Administration, that terrorists can use the olive harvest as an opportunity to collect intelligence before attacking,” he said. “In spite of all my warnings, Arabs from the village of Awarta were allowed into Itamar to harvest the olives [last year]. Among them was the murderer Hackim Awed, who then collected information before the massacre. I would expect that this year there would be some logical consideration,” he said.
Itamar Council head Moshe Goldsmith added that the Palestinians were in an area of the settlement that was very close to the Fogel home.
Among the settlers who came out to protest the presence of the Palestinian farmers was Tamar Fogel, 12, who survived the attack on her family because she was out with friends that night.
Goldsmith said some of the Palestinian farmers threatened to execute another murder.
Both sides reportedly threw rocks at the other.
Separate from the clash in Itamar itself, Rabbi Arik Ascherman of Rabbis
for Human Rights said Palestinian farmers in the wider area around
Itamar had trouble throughout the day trying to harvest their olives,
including damage to olive sacks and stone throwing.
Jamal Kawariq said he was physically attacked and cursed by settlers
when he went to his land. He said the IDF saw what was happening but did
not respond. Kawariq also charged that settlers lit fire to his fields.
“Our work is dangerous, but what can we do,” he said.
In some cases, Palestinians who saw settlers in their groves waited a long time for the army to respond, according to Ascherman.
Further away in the area of Gilad Farm, the army told Palestinian
farmers they had to wait a day to work on their fields, because there
were not enough forces to protect them, Ascherman said.
The IDF did not respond to phone calls from The Jerusalem Post