Yuval Azoulay
October 21, 2008 - 8:00pm

A right-wing activist on Wednesday lightly wounded an Israel Defense Forces soldier protecting Palestinian olive harvesters near the West Bank settlement of Otniel.

The incident occurred as twelve masked rightists, armed with clubs, scuffled with IDF soldiers deployed to guard the Palestinians. The rightists subsequently fled the scene, after which police embarked on a search for them.

The current olive harvest has been marked with other violent incidents. On Saturday, witnesses and Reuters crew said that Israeli settlers clashed with Palestinians and others helping them pick olives in the West Bank town of Hebron.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad on Wednesday issued a harsh condemnation of the attacks by settlers, calling them "terrorism."

"The settlers being here in itself is illegitimate. And on top of that they engage in acts of violence against our citizens, particularly at this time of year when they pick olives, with all that the olive tree signifies to our people," Fayyad told Reuters.

"This is nothing short of terrorism by the settlers."

Fayyad said the olive tree was not only a source of income for most Palestinians, but more importantly a "symbol of the determination of the Palestinian people to stay on their land and to preserve and defend it".

Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Army Radio on Monday that the army was deploying with "supreme effort" to allow the harvest to take place.

On Sunday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged his people to plant a million trees across the West Bank in response to the clashes.

Abbas said the violence was a "dangerous Israeli escalation" and urged the international community to intervene.

Also on Wednesday, Modi'in Police arrested 29 West Bank settlers who were protesting outside the home of GOC Central Command Gadi Shamni.

The protesters were detained for allegedly disturbing the peace. Several protesters who refused to identify themselves to the police were arrested and brought to court.

Others who were released returned later to the scene of the protest and subsequently take to court in Ramle.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017