Adrian Blomfield
The Telegraph
December 9, 2009 - 1:00am

Mounting discontent over the building ban, announced at the end of November, has already manifested itself in a series of scuffles between egg-throwing settlers and Israeli police officers.

But this week hardline Jewish activists have signalled a change of tactic by circulating calls for Palestinian civilians to pay the price for the settlement freeze.

In a chilling statement of intent the residents of Yitzhar, a settlement with a reputation for radicalism, warned they would inflict damage to "Arab property as well as to their bodies" if government inspectors attempted to enforce the freeze.

"If there is no quiet for the Jews, there shall be no quiet for the Arabs," said a statement posted on a settler website. "If Arabs are victorious due to their violence against the Jews, the Jews shall also be victorious due to violence against Arabs."

The threat comes amid plans for a show of force in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening, when thousands of West Bank settlers are expected to demonstrate their anger outside the residence of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister.

Under American pressure, he announced a 10-month moratorium on new settler construction in the West Bank - a gesture that was immediately rejected by the Palestinian leadership as too paltry to resume stalled peace negotiations.

But for the West Bank's 300,000 Jewish settlers, the freeze represented a betrayal of Mr Netanyahu's Right-wing principles - even though critics say the moratorium will do little to slow the rate of construction because it gave permission for building on 3,000 homes to continue.

As settlers have mobilised to prevent access to inspectors seeking to monitor the freeze, some incidents of violence against Palestinians have already been reported. Several Palestinian tractors and cars have been set alight and one house came under fire.

Palestinians like Hanan Sufan and her five-year-old grandson Baha'a are bracing for the worst. Mrs Sufan keeps her livestock in a cellar at her isolated farmhouse, surrounded by razor wire in the village of Burin. On many nights, she said, Baha'a wakes in terror.

The men of Yitzhar have allegedly attacked the Sufan family home for years. Mrs Sufan claimed they had poisoned her sheep, burned farm vehicles, rustled a donkey, slit the throat of another, set ablaze olive groves and barley fields and even started a fire inside her house.

They came again last month, she said, waving their rifles, setting tyres alight and throwing Molotov cocktails at the windows during a nine-hour siege.

Jewish settlers have been accused in the past of violence against Palestinians, partly in an attempt to force them out of the West Bank - territory some believe was promised by God to the Jews for ever.

But some of the attacks are part of another tradition called "the price tag". When Israeli authorities carry out acts unpopular with the settlers, such as demolishing homes ruled illegal by the Jewish state, the settlers take their revenge by ensuring that nearby Palestinians pay the price.

Often, these revenge attacks take the form of fires started on Palestinian olive groves.

"When it does happen, it is aimed against the [Israeli] army rather than against the Arabs," said Daniella Weiss, a settler leader.

With signs that such attacks are now likely to become more common, Mrs Sufan and her family know they must fear the worst.

Even so, she refuses to be budged from her home.

"They are crazy people," she said. "In the beginning they used to scare me, but not anymore.

"But the boy is scared. He cries and says he wants to leave. We tell him, where should we go? We have nowhere to go."


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