Khaled Abu Toameh
The Jerusalem Post
October 7, 2011 - 12:00am

The IDF dismissed accusations by the Palestinian Authority that it was protecting settlers who attack Palestinians and/or their property in the West Bank as ridiculous on Thursday.

“It is both baseless and ridiculous to say the IDF is supporting such activity,” an army source said.

“The IDF together with other law enforcement bodies constantly work to prevent and investigate unlawful activities in the West Bank, whether they are perpetuated by Palestinians or Israelis,” the sources said.

But the PA minister for fence and settlements, Maher Ghnaim, told reporters in Ramallah that a recent upsurge in anti-Palestinian settler violence in the West Bank “coincided with increased assaults by the occupation against our people.”

He said this indicated the attacks were being “coordinated and programed” between the settlers and the IDF.

Ghnaim claimed IDF soldiers were not only protecting the violent settler groups, but were also providing escape routes for them after attacks on Palestinians.

Instead of dealing with the assailants, the soldiers often target defenseless Palestinians, as was the case in the village of Kusra last month, where one Palestinian was killed during a confrontation, he added.

The PA minister said that in the last month alone, settlers attacked more than 20 Palestinian communities in the West Bank while the Israeli government was busy “Judaizing” Jerusalem and while “aggressions” were continuing against the Aksa Mosque.

He also pointed out that four mosques had been torched or vandalized in the West Bank in recent weeks.

According to the minister, more than 4,000 olive trees were set on fire or uprooted during the month of September in the West Bank. He expected settler violence to increase during the olive harvest season, which is scheduled to begin in the coming days.

Earlier this week, the PA decided to send policemen and civil servants to participate in picking olives in a bid to keep settlers away.

Ghnaim also claimed settler drivers have deliberately hit 33 Palestinians since the beginning of the year. In the last few days, he noted, three Palestinians were injured after being hit by cars driven by settlers.

The IDF was not able to provide The Jerusalem Post with statistics regarding violent incidents in the West Bank.

But an army source said there had been a rise in West Bank violence between Israelis and Palestinians since the demolition of three homes at the Migron outpost early last month.

“It is a concern for us, because it can potentially create a deterioration in the security situation,” said the source.

The PA claimed, meanwhile, thousands of prisoners have been on hunger strike in Israeli prisons since September 27.

The prisoners are protesting against the policy of solitary confinement of some inmates and other punitive measures taken by the Prisons Service.

The PA called on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to hold rallies in solidarity with the striking prisoners in the next few days.

The PA minister for prisoners affairs, Issa Qaraqi, claimed that the lives of many prisoners was at stake because of the 10- day-old hunger strike. He accused the Israeli government of endorsing a policy of “repression” against the prisoners and warned this would lead to a mutiny in the prisons.


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