Amnesty International today called on Israel to take action against West Bank settlers who it says have been poisoning Palestinians’ livestock.
Over a period of several weeks, Jewish settlers have spread toxic chemicals on Palestinian fields south of the West Bank city of Hebron, a statement released by the human rights group said.
The statement also charged that Israeli authorities are turning a blind eye to the incidents in Israeli-controlled areas of the West Bank.
“To date, the Israeli authorities have not cleaned the toxic chemicals ... and have not taken the necessary measures to investigate the matter with a view to bringing those responsible to justice,” the statement from the London-based human rights group.
“Palestinian farmers have been forced to quarantine their flocks and stop using the milk, cheese and meat from them, effectively depriving them of their livelihood,” the group said.
Harassment of Palestinians by settlers from Maon and a nearby unauthorised outpost called Havat Maon has been going on for years and has been the object of dozens of Palestinian complaints and several reports by human rights groups.
The first poisoning incident was discovered on March 22 in a field near the village of Tuwani. Dozens of sheep and other animals have been poisoned and several have died, forcing Palestinian farmers to quarantine their livestock, the main source for their livelihood, the report said.
The Israeli police confirmed the presence of toxic substances in fields near several West Bank villages, but rejected Amnesty’s allegations that they don’t do enough to prevent settler attacks on Palestinians.
“It’s not true that the police is doing nothing. We make arrests, and there will be more in the future,” said the police spokesman for the West Bank, Shlomi Sagi. “When there is an attack, we arrest them and take them to court.”
Sagi said the police pay extra attention to sensitive areas where settlers and Palestinians routinely clash, assigning more police to patrol the fields. He said there is an ongoing investigation into the poisoning incidents.
The Amnesty statement said settler attacks on Palestinians, as well as on international peace activists, have increased in recent months, but the authorities have failed to investigate. Sagi said at least 10 settlers have been arrested for attacking Palestinian farmers.