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ARAB ISRAEL RELATIONS - Israel Admits Violence Is On The Rise In Colonies.

Hundreds of Jewish colonists are engaged in violence against Palestinians and Israeli soldiers who get in their way, Israel's top general in the occupied West Bank said in remarks published on Oct 2. "In the past, only a few dozen individuals took part in such activity but today that number has grown into the hundreds. That's a very significant change", Major-General Gadi Shamni said in an interview with the Haaretz newspaper. "These hundreds are engaged in conspiratorial actions against Palestinians and the security forces. It's a very grave phenomenon", he said, accusing colonist leaders and rabbis, whom he did not name, of encouraging vigilante violence. Shamni's comments echoed the findings of a recent UN report which recorded 222 incidents of colonist violence in the West Bank in the first half of 2008 compared with 291 in all of 2007. Complaints Palestinians have long complained of harassment by colonists, including the burning of their olive trees and rock-throwing against farmers. On September 13, scores of colonists armed with guns, slingshots, knives and stun grenades attacked the West Bank village of Asira Al Kibliya, wounding three Palestinians. Colonists and the Israeli army said the Asira assault was triggered by the wounding of a nine-year-old colonist boy by a Palestinian whom he had disturbed in the act of setting fire to a house in the Yitzhar colony while the family was away. Israeli PM Ehud Olmert reacted strongly to the colonists' attack, saying he would not tolerate "pogroms" by Jewish extremists who are determined on religious grounds to stop Israel swapping occupied land for peace. In the interview, Shamni said Israeli officers and soldiers who have tried to protect Palestinians from attack have been injured by colonists or had their vehicles damaged. Diverting military resources to keep colonists in line, Shamni said, impairs the army's ability to carry out "security missions" in the West Bank, which include raids against Palestinian fighters.

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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Date:Oct 4, 2008
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