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Israeli settlers attack tourists and Palestinians on West Bank hike

Italian national's arm is fractured and bruised as others suffer burns from pepper spray
Israeli settler seen on video attacking Palestinian and foreign hikers north of the occupied West Bank city of Jericho on 13 January 2023 (Screengrab)
Israeli settler seen on video attacking Palestinian and foreign hikers north of the occupied West Bank city of Jericho on 13 January 2023 (Screengrab)

A group of Israeli settlers attacked and wounded Palestinian hikers and foreign tourists while they were walking on a trail in the occupied West Bank on Friday.

An Italian national's arm was fractured and bruised, while others suffered from burns as settlers sprayed pepper gas on their faces and used clubs and batons to hit them, Palestinian news agency Wafa reported.

Samira, an Italian national who was part of the tour, told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that six people were involved in the attack near Al-Auja town, north of Jericho. So far, no one has been arrested.

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"When we were nearing the end, settlers arrived with batons and pepper spray. They prevented us from continuing to walk and started attacking us," Samira told Haaretz.

The attackers also threatened to kill the tourists, Wafa said.

After a two-hour wait for Israeli forces to arrive, the group of around 40 hikers, which included American, French and Italian nationals, were finally escorted to their bus.

Settler attacks in the West Bank against Palestinians and foreigners, including Israeli peace activists, are common.

According to the United Nations, settler violence has been on a year-to-year upward trend since 2016. 

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In 2022, at least 755 attacks by settlers were recorded by the UN, 161 of them leading to casualties and 594 leading to damage to properties, including damage to more than 13,130 Palestinian-owned olive trees.

Violence carried out by settlers includes the use of live fire, physical assaults, arson attacks and the uprooting of olive trees. 

Settlers were suspected of killing at least five Palestinians last year, including Ali Hasan Harb, 28, who was stabbed to death while peacefully rebuffing an assault by settlers on private Palestinian land in Salfit. 

UN experts accuse Israeli authorities of being complicit in settler violence.

They said last month: "Armed and masked Israeli settlers are attacking Palestinians in their homes, attacking children on their way to school, destroying property and burning olive groves, and terrorising entire communities with complete impunity.

"Disturbing evidence of Israeli forces frequently facilitating, supporting and participating in settler attacks, makes it difficult to discern between Israeli settler and state violence."

Nearly 700,000 settlers live in more than 250 settlements and outposts across the West Bank and East Jerusalem in violation of international law.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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