Settler violence continues across West Bank 14Mar11 March 15, 2011

Ma’an News Agency -  14 March 2011

Settlers were seen setting fire to an agricultural field north of Ramallah overnight, while a mob entered a town east of Qalqiliya and set fire to civilian vehicles as Palestinians in the West Bank remain fearful.

Palestinian security had been warning residents against travel to areas of settler violence on Sunday afternoon, but drivers continue to fear roadside attacks on shared settler roads, while Palestinians living near settlements fear attacks from roving mobs of settlers seeking vengeance for the murder of a family in the northern West Bank in Friday night.

East of Qalqiliya, eyewitnesses described more than a dozen settlers in white masks entering the village of Jinsafout after midnight on Monday morning.

The masked vandals set fire to at least one private car, leaving it a burned out shell. Witnesses said they were too afraid to leave their home to douse the blaze.

In the same area settlers were believed to have also torched a tractor, but there farmers were able to put out the fire when the arsonists left the scene.

In the central West Bank town of Dura Al-Qar’a north of Ramallah, two more vehicles were reported to have been torched.

Official sources in the village told Ma’an that the attack took place around 3:00 a.m. A village officials said residents believed that settlers fro the nearby settlement of Bet El were behind the attacks.

“It would not be the first time Bet El residents had attacked our village,” the officials aid, adding that the latest attack occurred near an Israeli watch tower at the entrance to the population center.

Earlier in the evening, locals had reported cars being stoned by settlers on the road near Bet El.

The incidents were the latest in a rising tide of violence against Palestinians.

While the attacker or attackers behind the Friday night killing remain unknown, Israeli officials have said the murders were the work of a Palestinian militant group and have been described as a “terror attack.”

Hamas, and Islamic Jihad have both said their fighters had nothing to do with the killings. A statement from the West Bank leadership of a little known group calling itself the “Imad Mughniyya Group” had sent a statement to media outlets claiming to have carried out the attack, but details from the statement did not match statements from investigators.

The group’s leadership in Gaza sent out a second statement on Sunday, denying involvement.

The second statement said the brigade’s struggle was for “freedom and dignity not killing and bloodshed.”

Israel’s government responded to the incident by announcing a mass increase in settlement construction, with 500 new homes to be built in illegal settlements across the occupied West Bank.

The decision won a nod from the Yesha settlers’ council but was furiously denounced by the Palestinians.

“This decision by the government is a small step in the right direction,” a Yesha statement said, but added: “It is deeply troubling that it requires the murder of children in the arms of their parents to achieve such an objective.”


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