"Citizens of Qusra village, who were subjected to numerous assaults by settlers during the past months, acted in self defense," said government spokesperson Ihab Bseiso in a statement.
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On Tuesday, around a dozen settlers from the Esh Kodesh settlement outpost entered Qusra, some wearing masks, but were beaten up by local Palestinians who then shut them up in a house. Israeli troops eventually negotiated the release of the settlers but police placed seven of them under house arrest pending an investigation into why they had entered the village in the first place.
Qusra is just a few kilometers north of Esh Kodesh and is the scene of frequent clashes between settlers and Palestinians.
"Citizens of Qusra village were able to stand in the face of settler groups who assaulted farmers from the village and tried to sabotage their land; they chased them out of the fields and trapped them in a building under construction," Bseiso said.
The villagers had "provided the settlers with water and wipes to clean their wounds" then contacted local officials who got in touch with the army, he said, demanding the international community to "intervene to provide protection" for Palestinians in the face of settler violence.
Settlers leaving Qusra (Photo: Zacharia Sadah, Rabbis for Human Rights)
Bseiso said Qusra had suffered "continuous assaults" by local settlers, including shooting attacks, burnt crops and olive trees uprooted; three villagers were still suffering from serious injuries and one person had been shot dead by troops in 2011 in one such attack.
Photo: Zacharia Sadah, Rabbis for Human Rights
Palestinian daily Al-Quds said the detention of settlers by ordinary civilians was "a unique precedent and an example of passive resistance."
"Esh Kodesh is an outpost that serves as launching ground for severe unlawful activity, and as such... it creates severe friction that causes harm to people and their property, and therefore heavily burdens the security authorities," said the letter, a copy of which was seen by AFP.
The watchdog slammed the government for failing to carry out existing demolition orders against wildcat outposts - settlements which have not been formally approved and are therefore illegal.