JERUSALEM (Aug. 12)
Israeli settlers and Peace Now members came to blows as the dovish activists attempted to count empty houses in one West Bank settlement.
The clash occurred Wednesday after three Peace Now activists arrived in the settlement of Itamar, escorted by a press photographer, in order to count empty houses there.
The photographer was beaten up by local settlers, and as the team tried to leave the settlement, four local cars blocked its way out. The settlers insisted that the Peace Now car would have to first pass a security check.
The Peace Now team was eventually allowed to leave after an Israel Defense Force officer arrived on the scene.
Aharon Domb, secretary general of the Yesha Council of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, condemned the behavior of the settlers and said they should have shown hospitality to the Peace Now activists — despite their political differences.
The trip to Itamar was part of Peace Now’s investigation into empty houses in the territories. Extensive building is continuing there even though some 2,900 apartments stand empty in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Peace Now claimed at a news conference Wednesday. The group said that despite the empty houses, thousands of new homes were being built in several settlements.
Domb said there was no truth to the claim. He said there were only several hundred empty buildings, which would soon be occupied.
Meanwhile, Israeli security forces arrested Wednesday two Palestinian residents of the village of Madma, suspected of having been involved in the murder of two West Bank settlers at Yizhar last week.
The men arrested were identified as Thabet Masswar, 20, a medical student, and Ahmad Kamal, 28, a teacher.