Israeli forces arrested three Palestinians in Safa village, near the southern West Bank city of Hebron, for trying to extinguish fires set by Bat Ayin settlers on Tuesday night, local sources said. Israeli settlers from Bat Ayin set fire to fields in the village of Safa, northwest of Hebron, on Tuesday night. The fires burned dozens of dunums of olive and almond groves in the Ayn al-Bida district of Saffa, 12 km northwest of Hebron. The land is believed to belong to the local families of Thelja and A’adi families.
Muhammad Ayad Awad, media spokesman for the Palestine Solidarity Project, said the Israeli army “set traps” for residents attempting to put out the fires, and eventually caught Sufyan Said Ja’bari Adi, aged 20, Aziz Mahmoud Muhammad Khalil, 16, and Anwar Amad Badr Khalil, 15. Awad added that settlers had set the grove on fire more than six times in the past year, and that Israeli soldiers promptly intervened to put out fires in Bat Ayin.
Eyewitnesses reported that Israeli soldiers blocked two groups of activists and a number of firefighters from reaching the scene where the fires broke out in the late evening of Tuesday.
The news follows coverage of other episodes of settler arsons in Beit Ummar, in the Hebron area, in which 15 Dunams planted with fig and olive trees were destroyed .
Since the beginning of the olive picking, settlers cut down trees, picked Palestinian olives and prevented Palestinian farmers from harvesting their crops, rights groups and police sources stated.
Separate reports issued Wednesday pointed to a footage contradicting recent arson allegations, broadcast in Israeli media, and claiming that international activists and Palestinian farmers set fire to ‘state land’ in Safa valley, near Beit Ummar, last October 7th.
The new footage from the incident in Safa mostly shows regular labor, according to an anonymous international witness, which was filmed on the ground rather than the hillside where settlers taped and later edited their ‘arson’ evidence.
The solidarity group was helping Palestinian farmers clearing farmland to prepare it for replanting, which necessitated burning brush in bundles controlled by dirt and stones.
Soldiers soon arrived and arrested six of the eight internationals without providing an explanation of why they were arrested. The internationals were interrogated, their passports were photocopied, and were released later on.