On Thursday, 30 June, around noon settlers torched fields surrounding the Yizhar settlement. The action apparently was in response to the knife-point carjacking of a vehicle belonging to a Yitzhar settler the previous night as she was driving through the Village of Huwara. The fires consumed dozens of dunams of land, including, according to military and Civil Administration officials quoted in the media, around 400 olive trees of residents of the adjacent Palestinian villages, Burin and Huwara. Some of the trees were completely destroyed.
A Palestinian from Burin, Mu’az Sufan, a volunteer in B'Tselem’s camera project, documented one of the torchings. The Sufan family home is in the southern part of the village, cut off from the rest of its built-up area by a road. Due to its location below the settlement Yitzhar, the Sufans endured countless settler attacks and document them with a video camera provided by B’Tselem.
The film shows a small group of settlers walking along the access road to Yizhar, on their way from a demonstration that had been held at the Huwarra intersection. One of the settlers walks into the weeds by the roadside and throws some lit matches. As the blaze starts, the settler flees in a waiting vehicle, which drives in the direction of the gate at the entrance to the settlement. The fire rapidly spreads toward the olive orchards on the eastern side of the road.
Ha’aretz reported that the police arrested a number of suspects, and that the court released them for lack of evidence. B'Tselem will provide the video footage to the police with a demand to locate the arsonists and bring them to justice.
The access road to Yitzhar and large swaths of land around the settlement are closed to Palestinians. The access road serves only residents of the settlement, with Palestinian vehicles not being allowed to use it. Additionally, at the time of the incident, the army prohibited Palestinians from using the section of Route 60 between Huwara and the Jit intersection (referred to as the “Gilad Route” by the army). Palestinians complained that Israeli security forces closed the Gilad Route to Palestinian movement until the day after the torching [Friday, 1 July], and that security forces delayed Palestinian firefighters from reaching the scene, and did not enable them to get to all the fields that were aflame.
According to data collected by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in 2011, settlers have damaged more than 3,000 trees belonging to Palestinians. In recent weeks, B'Tselem learned of three other torchings around Yitzhar, on land belonging to residents of Madma. On 30 May and 2nd of June, around four dunums of wheat were destroyed. On 3rd of July settlers and Palestinians had an altercation due to mutual arson claims, in which a Palestinian and a settler were injured by stone throwing.