A group of Israeli peace workers were attacked Saturday near Hebron, in the southern part of the West Bank, as they escorted Palestinian shepherds to their grazing land.

According to Israeli sources, the attackers came from the nearby settlement of Maon, built on land illegally seized from the Palestinians.  The victims report that they were surrounded by ninety armed settlers who shouted epithets, threw rocks at them and physically attacked them.Settlers in the Hebron area are among the most violent of the nearly 500,000 Israeli settlers living illegally in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  Palestinians in the Hebron area report attacks by Israelis settlers on a nearly-daily basis, although the Israeli police in the area consistently refuse to investigate the attacks.As a result, international and Israeli human rights activists often station themselves in Hebron to try to protect the Palestinian shepherds and farmers from the constant barrage of attacks.But the Israeli settlers in the Hebron area do not hesitate to attack either internationals or their fellow Israelis.  In some cases, international and Israeli human rights activists have ended up in the hospital after having been beaten with rocks by settlers.In Saturday's attack, none of the human rights activists had to go to the hospital, but a number of injuries were reported.  Activists added that a police jeep arrived to the scene, but made no effort to go through the crowd of sixty settlers that were beating the peace activists.The Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported that one of the victims stated, "They hit us, twisted our arms and spat at us. Even the soldiers were unable to help us."


Israeli soldiers stationed in Hebron are ordered only to protect the settlers.  Any attacks by the settlers against Palestinians, Israelis or internationals thus go unpunished.