Jewish Settlers Stone US Consular Officials in Occupied West Bank
American security guards drew their weapons on Israeli settlers after they threw stones at a convoy of visiting US diplomats investigating damage to Palestinian crops by far-right Jewish colonists in the illegally-occupied West Bank.
The Times of Israel reports the incident occurred on Friday near the Adei Ad outpost, northeast of Ramallah. Staff members from the US Consulate in Jerusalem were traveling with several Palestinians from the nearby village of Turmus Ayya, where residents said thousands of olive tree saplings have been uprooted by Jewish settlers in recent days.
Last month, tensions flared after Palestinian Authority Settlements and Annexation Wall Minister Ziad Abu Ein was killed during a confrontation with Israeli forces while planting olive trees near Adei Ad. Witnesses claim Abu Ein was struck by Israeli border police, Israeli military officials claim he died of a heart attack.
The US consular officials decided to visit the area after villagers with American citizenship invited them to inspect the damage. When the visitors arrived, a number of settlers pelted them with rocks. The Jerusalem Post reports American security guards armed with M16 rifles confronted their assailants as the consular officials quickly retreated. No one was injured during the incident, although damage to consular vehicles was reported.
Israeli police confirmed the incident, with spokesman Micky Rosenfeld telling reporters that an official complaint has been filed and an investigation is underway. There was no comment from the US Embassy.
In 1998, Jewish settlers established the Adei Ad colony, partially on land belonging to Palestinian villagers in Turmus Ayya and Jalud. Adei Ad was built without authorization from the Israeli government, making it illegal under both Israeli and international law. Over the past decade, Palestinian families, mostly farmers, have been violently attacked by settlers.
The family of Halima Al Na’san, a 65-year-old mother of nine, was forced off their farmland after a vicious settler assault in 2004.
“My husband Jamil was driving the tractor home and two of my sons and I were driving in a car behind, when a group of armed settlers started chasing and shooting at us,” Al Na’san told United Nations investigators. “We drove faster to escape and as we got close to the village, they threw some type of explosive device at our car. Luckily, we’d jumped out of the car a few moments before, because it was completely burned, together with three large containers of olives we’d picked that day that we were transporting.”
Al Na’san continued:
“Everyone ran in a different direction. My son Muayyad, who was only 13, hid inside a cave. A settler found him and put a gun to his head but people from the village came to help us and the settlers fled. Since that day, I’ve been constantly worried for my sons and Jamil and I encouraged them to go abroad. They could no longer continue working on the land, and there was nothing else they could do here. It hurts so much to lose your family, but we had no other choice to protect our sons.”
One of the settlers’ favored tactics is the destruction of the olive trees that many Palestinian farmers depend on for their livelihood. Hussein Abu Alia, a 72-year-old father of nine from Al Mughayyir, told UN investigators that he has “faced endless troubles” from Adei Ad settlers.
“We caught the settlers stealing olives from our trees,” he said. “Then they started breaking off the branches, but they grew back and we also planted new trees to replace those damaged.”
“Then, three years ago when we went to pick our olives we were shocked to find the trees all yellow and dried up,” Abu Alia continued. “We called the police who discovered that the settlers had drilled into the trunks and injected them with a poisonous substance that killed the trees from the roots up. To date, I’ve had around 300 olive trees vandalized by Israeli settlers.”
The US State Department has included so-called ‘price tag’ attacks by Jewish settlers against Palestinians in its latest annual global terrorism report, prompting objections from Israeli leaders.
“Attacks by extremist Israeli settlers against Palestinian residents, property and places of worship in the West Bank continued and were largely unprosecuted,” the State Department report states. “The UN… reported 399 attacks by extremist Israeli settlers that resulted in Palestinian injuries or property damage (in 2013).”
The Israeli human rights group Yesh Din notes that 97.4 percent cases of alleged olive tree vandalism by Jewish settlers did not result in criminal charges. Only four such cases were prosecuted between the years 2005 and 2013.
There has been no comparable wave of Palestinian violence against Jewish settlers, although Jews are sometimes attacked and, in extremely rare cases, killed, by Palestinians objecting to nearly 50 years of unlawful occupation and continued illegal settlement construction.