Twelve anarchists – five Israelis and seven foreign nationals – were arrested by security forces Thursday morning on suspicion that they had set fire to a field owned by Jewish settlers.
The fire consumed some 50 dunams (about 12 acres) of land near the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin.
'Hard to determine who owns land.' Fire near settlement (Photo courtesy of Gush Etzion Regional Council)
The incident began at around 8 am when a group of 30 anarchists, accompanied by a number of photographers from the Al-Jazeera television network, arrived at the site. The anarchists set the field on fire and planted olive trees in the torched soil.
According to the settlers, the method is commonly used to take over land. "When the olive trees grow the Civil Administration has a difficult time determining who the land belongs to," one of them said.
The grove has been set on fire three times over the past few weeks by anarchists.
'Why are they targeting us?' Suspects detained (Photo courtesy of Gush Etzion Regional Council)
The disputed land is located some 100 meters (330 feet) from Bat Ayin. "These lands have been under Jewish ownership since 1934," said Yaki Morag, the head of security at the settlement. "However, we have no claims to these fields and we do not plan on cultivating them or settling on them. So we don’t understand what the frenzy is about or why they repeatedly target us.
"This has been going on for a year and a half now, on an almost weekly basis," he said. "Yesterday and the day before anarchists burned 90-year-old trees on land that belongs to the Jewish National Fund near Kfar Etzion."
The settlers complained against the police's "revolving door policy," whereby the anarchists are arrested, interrogated and released on the same day.
Yair Wolf, deputy head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council, told Ynet, "The anarchists' intolerable behavior must be stopped. The foreigners among them must be deported. They only fuel the conflict."
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