Saturday afternoon [May 26], a Palestinian was wounded — shot — by one of the Yitzhar settlers in clashes between the two sides.
The clashes followed a fierce confrontation between Palestinians and the settlers' security squad over the previous weekend, videotaped by the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, in the course of which Israel Defense Forces soldiers were recorded standing by without intervening as the settlers opened fire on the Palestinians and wounded one of them. The violent confrontations in the area continued through the week.
In mid-week, Yitzhar settlers charged that Palestinians had set fire to a field adjacent to the settlement. On Saturday at noon, once again, a Palestinian was shot and wounded by one of Yitzhar's security-squad members during clashes between settlers and Palestinians in the environs of the village of Orif, south of Nablus.
Following the event, Israeli military and police forces in the area have been reinforced. It has been reported by IDF sources that the incident is being taken seriously and that an in-depth inquiry into the matter will be conducted.
The second incident in a week
It is not the first time that clashes between Yitzhar settlers and local Palestinians have made headlines.
Last week [May 20], the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem uploaded to the Web a video clip recording an especially violent incident which had taken place the previous Saturday [May 19]. That day, around noon, a large group of Yitzhar settlers, some of them armed and masked, descended toward the outskirts of the nearby village of Asira al-Qibliya.
According to the press release by B'Tselem documenting the incident, the settlers started throwing rocks at the Palestinian villagers and their homes and, according to the B'Tselem report, also lit fires in the area. One of the masked settlers who took part in the rock throwing is seen in the video clip armed with a Tavor rifle, which is used mainly by infantry soldiers, raising suspicions that he was a soldier on leave.
Palestinian youths from Asira al-Qibliya soon arrived at the scene and began throwing rocks back at the settlers. A few minutes later, IDF soldiers and Border Police officers turned up at the place. During the first moments of the event, several rounds of live ammunition were fired, as heard on the video soundtrack, but the video recording does not show the source of the shooting. Around 5 in the afternoon, a group of three settlers were standing close to one of the soldiers, facing the Palestinian youths.
Two of the settlers seen in the video clip were armed with shortened M16 rifles, and one was armed with a pistol. One of the settlers was wearing a police cap, as can be seen in the B'Tselem video clip. The video footage shows the settlers aiming their weapons at the Palestinians and opening fire.
In the shooting, a 24-year-old Palestinian villager by the name of Fathi 'Asayira was wounded in the head, and he is now hospitalized in stable condition at the Rafidiya Hospital in Nablus. Some five other Palestinians were hit and injured by rocks thrown in the clashes.
It appears that the soldiers present at the scene did not act to prevent the shooting. The video footage raises grave suspicions that the soldiers did nothing to prevent the settlers from throwing stones and igniting fires, did not try to separate the two sides and did not stop the armed settlers from firing live ammunition at the Palestinians. The soldiers did not attempt to move the settlers away from the area and were in fact standing by their side indifferently while the settlers kept throwing rocks and shooting.