A large group of Israeli settlers set fire to Palestinian farmland this morning in the West Bank town of Burqa, north of Nablus, Wafa news agency has reported.
According to Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors Israeli settlement activities in that area, the settlers set fire to Palestinian farms near the illegal Israeli settlement of Homesh. Palestinian residents nearby were able to put the fires out, but not before they caused immense damage to crops and trees. Burqa and neighbouring villages have long been targeted by settlers living illegally in the West Bank.
Several major arson attacks by Israeli settlers have been recorded in the occupied territories over the past few weeks, coinciding with the start of the olive harvest season. Last week, extremist settlers uprooted 900 olive and apricot saplings and stole olive crops in the village of Sebastia, also near Nablus. Moreover, settlers uprooted 70 trees in Masafer Yatta, south of the West Bank city of Hebron.
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Palestinians say that the Israeli authorities allow settlers to continue their attacks with no consequences as part of official efforts to intensify settlement construction in the occupied territories. In response to the latest arson attack, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has called on the UN to send officials to monitor attacks by Israeli Jewish settlers against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem.
"Terrorism by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank who are currently harvesting their olive crops will not frighten the farmers because they are the true owners of the land," said Shtayyeh. He called on the UN to establish a database of settlers involved in these acts of terrorism in order to prosecute them.
Some 650,000 Israelis are currently living illegally in the occupied West Bank, scattered across 164 settlements and 124 outposts. Under international law, all Jewish settlements and outposts in the occupied Palestinian territories are illegal.