IDF on high alert for new settler violence

By Yaakov Katz, October 10, 2008

Israeli security forces went on high alert this week out of fear that a recent spate of settler violence will escalate as a result of Palestinian farmers harvesting olives in groves located near settlements.

In recent weeks, senior IDF officers have met frequently with their Palestinian counterparts to prepare for the harvest season, which started this week and will last until late December.

Some 3,000 permits were issued to Palestinian farmers who will be allowed to travel freely throughout the West Bank and even cross the security barrier to harvest fields located on the Israeli side of the fence.

Defence officials said that the IDF would deploy large forces in "hot spots" throughout the West Bank where Palestinian farmers will be working in fields next to settlements.

Last month, settlers allegedly burned down an olive grove near Ramallah and residents of Yitzhar went on a violent rampage through a Palestinian village after a nine-year-old boy was stabbed by a Palestinian infiltrator.

"Our main job will be to prevent the settlers and the farmers from getting close to one another," a senior officer in the West Bank said. "In previous years there have been violent clashes and the lesson has been to prevent the sides from getting close to each other."

To prevent friction between settlers and the Palestinians, Israeli access to some areas where olive groves are located will be restricted. The IDF has also met with left-wing groups that traditionally assist the Palestinian farmers to set guidelines for their activity.


    Last updated: 12:23pm, October 8 2008