A new video released by an Israeli human rights organization shows Israeli settlers setting fire to West Bank fields, contradicting earlier claims by the Israeli military that Palestinians were behind the arson.
B’Tselem’s video showed two Israeli settlers, including one armed with a Tavor assault rifle, enter grassland to cause flames in the area before walking away.
Following the video, the Israeli army changed its original statement blaming the fire on “Palestinians”.
Israeli settlers from the settlement of Yitzhar attacked Palestinians from the villages of Burin, Urif and Asira al-Qibliya, south of Nablus, in the occupied West Bank last Friday, with both subsequently blaming the other for causing the fires which followed.
B’Tselem said, “[Israeli] soldiers who were standing next to [the settlers] did not arrest them and prevent[ed] the Palestinians from reaching their burning lands.”
Meanwhile another video shows Israeli settlers throwing rocks at nearby Palestinian homes while four Israeli soldiers stand idle.
According to B’Tselem, the Israeli military had granted “almost total immunity” to the settlers involved in the attacks with neither of them interrogated or arrested.
The Israeli military refused to make any comment on the reasons that no settlers had been arrested for the arson.
“Minutes after the two settlers opened fire, Israeli military jeeps arrived on the scene. […] Eight soldiers [then] went into two nearby shops to check their security cameras,” B’Tselem said.
“They dismantled a DVR [recording equipment] in one of the shops and left. About twenty minutes later, the soldiers returned to the shop, reinstalled the DVR and watched the footage. Two soldiers filmed the screen with their mobile phones. They then erased the footage from the DVR and left.”
It was not the first time the Israeli military covered up settler attacks against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.
Last month, B’Tselem found that the military had covered up the killing of a young Palestinian over an alleged stabbing attempt south of the occupied West Bank city of Nablus.
The deadly shooting took place at the Huwara checkpoint on April 3 when an Israeli settler shot and killed the 23-year-old Palestinian, identified as Mohammed Abdel Moneim Mohammed Abdel-Fattah.
Despite being transferred to hospital, Abdel-Fattah succumbed to his wounds, leaving behind his wife and young daughter.
The Israeli organization dismissed media reports in this regard and said the shooting of Abdel-Fattah was “unjustified”.
The Israeli troops, who arrived on the scene, refused to do anything to arrest the two settlers, it said, adding, “They promptly drove the Palestinians away from the scene, and then addressed the urgent task of eliminating any footage of the incident, to ensure that the truth never comes to light and the shooters would not face any charges or be held accountable in any way.”