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Israeli Settlers Set Fire To Palestinian Fields, Stone Cars During Rampage

ALI DARAGHMEH   07/20/09 01:33 PM ET   AP

Israeli Settlers

NABLUS, West Bank — More than 30 Israeli settlers, some of them on horseback, set fire to fields and olive trees and stoned Palestinian cars during a rampage in the West Bank on Monday, a Palestinian official said. Two Palestinians were lightly injured.

The settlers went on the rampage near the city of Nablus in the northern West Bank to protest the Israeli army's removal of an unauthorized settlement outpost in the area.

Ghassan Daglas, a Nablus municipality official, said the riot began with 10 settlers on horseback and grew to a mob of 30 south of the city, where the settlers attacked Palestinians who passed in cars.

Daglas said smoke from the burning fields blanketed the area, but no houses were damaged. Daglas said Israeli forces tried to stop the rampaging settlers.

Israel's paramilitary border police force said it arrested one settler.

Israel has pledged to the U.S. to remove more than two dozen tiny, unauthorized settlement outposts in the West Bank, but has taken little action against them. Hardline settlers commonly attack Palestinian property as retaliation for demolished or evacuated settlements – a tactic they call the "price tag."

The Palestinians oppose all settlement activity on land they claim for a future state, and the U.S., which considers settlements obstacles to peace, is demanding a freeze on all settlement construction in the West Bank.

Israel has rejected the U.S. calls for a settlement freeze, saying existing settlements must be allowed to expand to account for "natural growth" in their populations.

Some 280,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements, in addition to 180,000 Israelis living in Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem. The Palestinians claim both areas, which were captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war.

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Filed by Hanna Ingber Win  |