VIDEO - Six foreign nationals and Palestinians set fires alight near the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin in the Gush Etzion bloc. Police said the suspects were taken in for questioning on suspicion of arson and illegal congregation.
Settlers said that at about 11 am they saw fires on lands they said belonged to Bat Ayin. Security sources said it was apparently land whose ownership is not regulated.
Dov Mark, land supervisor for the Gush Etzion Council, said such acts have taken place a number of times. "This is a known Palestinian method to take over state land," he said. "With the support of anarchists, who usually come from abroad, they come to an area of natural woodland which has never been cultivated, burn it on purpose and at the same time plant trees. It's all supposed to alter the reality on the ground."
Mark warned that "in this way, it's hard for the Israel Land Administration to work from the moment they plant trees on the land or cultivate it for agricultural crops. In today's case, some 80 dunams (20 acres) of natural woodland were burned by a group of 25 Palestinians and anarchists."
Anarchists near Bat Ayin (Photo: Gush Etzion Council)
Shaul Goldstein, head of the Gush Etzion Council, said the involvement of foreign left-wing activists in inflaming animosity between Palestinians and settlers had increased in recent years.
"They come to provoke," he said. "The State and police do nothing, especially against those anarchists who this time were foreign nationals. Whoever is arrested is released shortly afterwards and goes back to his old habits. About Israeli anarchists, the only thing I can say is, whoever loves this country doesn't burn it."
Firefighters in the area said investigations into the cause of fire were underway, and the main finding so far is that arson was involved.
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