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Palestinian farmers critically wounded during West Bank settler attack

Rights groups say that incidents of settler violence are unofficial acts of intimidation sanctioned by the state
A Palestinian from Barqa village was wounded during an Israeli settler attack north of the occupied West Bank (Supplied)
By Atef Daglas in Nablus, occupied Palestine

Israeli settlers have attacked and injured six Palestinian farmers from Barqa, a village near Nablus city, north of the occupied West Bank.

The Palestinians, some are farmers, were attacked while tending to their agricultural lands in Al-Qibabat, an area between Jenin and Nablus close to the illegal Israeli settlement of Homesh on Monday.

Ghassan Daghlas, a Palestinian activist monitoring the expansion of Israeli settlements north of the West Bank, told Middle East Eye that dozens of Barqa residents went to tend their agricultural lands, taking tools and farming tractors with them, but were soon surrounded by settlers.

They fired live bullets and threw stones at them, beat them using clubs and sprayed some with pepper gas.

The settlers also threw stones at Palestinian vehicles passing the main road connecting Jenin and Nablus, damaging four of them, Wafa news agency reported.

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Three of the six Palestinians injured on Monday were named as Naser Haja, Shadi Baroud, and Mohsen Sari Haji: all suffered from head injuries from the stones. They were transported to the Rafidia hospital, where their injuries were said to be "dangerous and critical".

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One of the wounded, Haji, an owner of a land plot, told MEE that he went with a lawyer to document how Israeli settlers attack farmers and bar them from cultivating Palestinian crops. He plans to begin legal proceedings.

"The settlers opened fire and threw stones at us," Haji said. "They set an ambush for us with an intention to kill. There were around 50 settlers."

Homesh is one of the settlements in the West Bank that Israel decided to withdraw from in 2005 when it dismantled settlements in the Gaza Strip as part of a "disengagment plan" pushed by former prime minister Ariel Sharon.

But settler groups have rejected the government's decision and never left the Homesh settlement.

On Monday, Israeli settlers burned down around 50 olive trees to the east of Hebron, Wafa reported.

In a report released on Sunday, Israeli rights group B'Tselem said that Israel uses two main methods to confiscate Palestinian land in the West Bank: official annexation via its judicial system and unofficial acts of intimidation and violence carried out by its settler population.

"The state fully supports and assists these acts of violence, and its agents sometimes participate in them directly," the report read.

"As such, settler violence is a form of government policy, aided and abetted by official state authorities with their active participation."

According to the report, Israeli settlers have taken over 11 square miles of farm and pasture land in the occupied West Bank during the past five years. 

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