Elder Palestinians protect settlers from lynching in West Bank village

Villagers say Jewish youths entered Kusra to commit ‘price-tag’ attack, while settlers say they were simply hiking in area.

Jewish settlers sit together after being detained by Palestinians, January 7, 2014.  (photo credit: Reuters)
Jewish settlers sit together after being detained by Palestinians, January 7, 2014.
(photo credit: Reuters)
Palestinians prevented fellow villagers from lynching 14 settler youths in Kusra on Tuesday afternoon and called in the IDF to rescue the Jewish group, who had been cornered in a construction site and beaten.
Palestinians alleged the Jewish teens and young adults had entered the village, southeast of Nablus, to carry out a “price-tag” attack. Settlers in turn alleged that the group was hiking in the area when Palestinians forced them to go to the construction site in Kusra.
According to a security source, Palestinians held the settlers for more than 40 minutes before soldiers and border police arrived. The security personnel then spent more than 90 minutes negotiating their release.
Young Palestinians roughly handled and beat the settlers, but elders in the village intervened to halt the violence, a security source said.
“The [older] Palestinians prevented a lynch,” the security source said.
With respect to the possibility that the Jewish youths had come to carry out a price-tag attack, he said the incident is under investigation, but added that “someone who goes into a village does not do it by mistake.”
The incident began earlier in the day when security forces destroyed two olive groves that belonged to the nearby Esh Kodesh outpost, which the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria said had been illegally planted.
During the demolition, clashes broke out between settlers, Palestinians and Israeli security personnel. There was an additional fight in the area by the nearby village of Jalud and Kusra.
Zakariya Sedde, a field worker for Rabbis for Human Rights, alleged that the settler youths, some of whom were masked, had vandalized 15 olive trees and attacked a farmer. Security forces intervened and shot tear gas, Sedde said.
At the same time settler youths tried to enter Kusra and were surrounded by villagers and trapped at the construction site. He said he arrived at the scene as Palestinian Authority security officers and a few villagers tried to protect the settlers.
Sedde arrived at the scene as a Palestinian security officer and a few others in the village attempted to protect the settlers.
Ziad Odeh, deputy mayor of Kusra, also accused the settlers of trying to cut down olive trees belonging to villagers. He said that the IDF intervened to release the settlers.
“Today we sent a message to the settlers that next time they storm the village we will beat them in defense of our lands and people,” he said.
Farmer Mahmoud Tubasi told Reuters, “I was tending my fields when a group of around 30 settlers came down the hill and attacked us with stones. We chased them and they fled to a house under construction. They were cornered there and some of the people here beat them – they had attacked us on our own land.”
A Reuters witness said villagers beat the settlers with their fists and sticks. Some bled from the head and mouth.
Aron Katsof, a resident of Esh Kodesh, said that the group of Jewish youths, none of whom were from his outpost, had been hiking in the area to see ruins from the time of Bar Kochba, when people from Kusra attacked them.
“They pushed them toward an unfinished house, tied them up and tried to kill them,” Katsof said.
He chastised the media for jumping to the conclusions that the group had attacked Palestinians or was attempting to carry out a price-tag attack.
The youths are victims of violence and could have been killed, he said.
Judea and Samaria Police said seven minors were detained in the incident, of whom four received treatment for injuries. Police added that in a separate incident nearby, a girl was detained for attacking an officer, and that another three minors were detained for throwing stones at Palestinian vehicles in the Shilo area to the south.Reuters contributed to this report.