RAMALLAH, West Bank -- A group of Palestinian farmers harvesting their olive trees in the occupied West Bank were attacked Friday by around 30 settlers, leaving four people with minor injuries, Palestinian officials said.
The attack, which comes amid an uptick in settler violence in recent months, began when Israeli settlers descended from a nearby settlement hurling stones and spraying pepper spray at Palestinian olive pickers near the town of Salfit, reported the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa.
The settlers smashed cars and stole olives, as well as some of the belongings of one of the female pickers, the news agency said, quoting Youssef Hammouda, a local farmer.
Israeli police confirmed they arrested four settlers near the settlement of Rechelim in connection with a Palestinian woman’s stolen goods.
In recent days, hard-line settlers have clashed with Israeli troops and vandalized Palestinian property in what is known as “price-tag” attacks — retaliations against perceived efforts by Israel to limit settlement expansion.
Last month, dozens of Israeli settlers attacked a Bedouin village in the southern West Bank, smashing cars and homes and leaving several injured, including a Palestinian toddler who was hospitalized with head injuries.
On Thursday, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz called on the military to combat rising settler attacks against Palestinians and Israeli forces by reacting “systematically, aggressively and uncompromisingly” to such behavior. Settler attacks on Palestinians and their olive tree groves are common during the autumn harvesting season.
Nearly all of the more than 500,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank reside in authorized settlements but more radical settlers have set up dozens of outposts, often in rural areas, that are illegal under Israeli law. The Israeli army has been hesitant to take action against the radical settlers, in part because it could lead to violent clashes.
The majority of the international community views all settlements as illegal and obstacles to peace. The Palestinians see the West Bank as part of their future state.