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Jewish settlers disrupt Palestinian olive harvest

Jordan Times


In a picture released by Active Stills, Israeli settlers attack a Palestinian photographer during an olive harvest in a field between the Jewish settlements of Tal Rumeidah and Beit Hadasa, near Hebron, in the occupied West Bank on Saturday (AFP photo)

October 18, 2008

HEBRON (Reuters) - Jewish settlers punched and kicked two news photographers and a British woman helping Palestinians pick olives in a West Bank town on Saturday and Israeli police responded by stopping the harvest.

The scuffle in the town of Hebron was the latest of a series of efforts by settlers living in the occupied land to disrupt an annual harvest critical to many Palestinians' livelihoods.

Witnesses and Reuters television footage showed four Jewish settlers headed into a grove next to a Jewish enclave where a few dozen Israeli, Palestinian and foreign peace activists were helping to pick olives.

The settlers punched and kicked Abed Hashlamoun, a photographer for the European Pressphoto Agency (EPA), leaving a bloody scratch beneath one eye. They similarly assaulted his brother, Reuters photographer Nayef Hashlamoun, who suffered no injuries.

Janet Benvie, a British activist with Christian Peacemaker Teams, sustained a scratch on her lip after a scuffle with a settler who had grabbed a camera.

"When I went to get the camera one of the settlers punched me in the face," Benvie told Reuters television.

Israeli soldiers arrived at the scene to break up the scuffle, television footage showed. They also permitted the settlers to leave the scene, Benvie said.

Israeli security declared the area a closed military zone, Danny Poleg, a spokesman for Israeli police in the West Bank said, effectively stopping the harvest.

Poleg said settlers and Palestinians had thrown stones at each other at the site.

Issa Amro, a Palestinian who works for the Israeli human rights group B'tselem, denied any stones were thrown and said police arrived at the scene after the scuffle had ended.

Poleg said no settlers had been arrested because no formal complaint had been lodged.

Three Israelis at the olive grove to help Palestinians with the harvest were later held for questioning after they refused police orders to leave the area, Poleg said.

Prisoner swap

Hamas could halt talks on the release of an Israeli solider seized in the Gaza Strip if Egypt does not free one of its leaders, a Hamas official said.

Soldier Gilad Shalit was abducted by fighters from an Israeli army base in a cross-border raid in June 2006.

In exchange for his release, Hamas has demanded that Israel sets free hundreds of prisoners it holds.

It also wants Egypt to release Ayman Nofal, a senior Hamas military operative arrested in Egypt on suspicion he was planning to attack targets there.

Egypt has been trying to mediate a prisoner swap.

But Hamas leader Youssef Farhat told a rally of hundreds of Nofal's fellow fighters that Egypt could not play a mediation role as long as it held him.

"We have put the file of Shalit in the fridge and it will remain frozen unless Ayman Nofal is freed," Farhat said.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the comments reflected frustration within Hamas over the situation.

"Nofal's continued detention is annoying and it has topped the agenda of all talks with Egyptian officials. We hope Egypt can end it by freeing him," Abu Zuhri said.

Hamas won a parliamentary election two years ago, prompting Israel to impose an economic blockade on the Gaza Strip.

It blew up the Rafah border crossing in January, allowing hundreds of thousands of Gazans to pour into Egypt to stock up on supplies. Egypt resealed the border and has stepped up patrols to prevent another breach.

Settlers Attack Palestinian Olive Harvest

:: Article nr. 48063 sent on 19-oct-2008 08:14 ECT


Link: www.jordantimes.com/?news=11444

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