On Thursday and Friday in the West Bank, groups of armed Israeli settlers attacked Palestinians and their property. In the northern West Bank on Thursday, armed Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian farmers, injuring three; and in the southern West Bank Friday, a group of settlers destroyed a Palestinian olive grove by chopping down all of the trees.The incident on Thursday took place in the village of Yanun, near Nablus, where Palestinian farmers were working on their land when several Israeli settlers came onto the land and attacked them. One of the settlers involved in the attack was identified as Matan Fogel, the brother of an Israeli man who was murdered along with his family in the settlement of Itamar last year in an attack that was blamed on local Palestinians.

Fogel and the other settlers called the Israeli military to assist them in dispersing the Palestinian farmers. When the military arrived, soldiers fired tear gas at the Palestinians and abducted five Palestinian farmers, according to local sources.

The Israeli settlers claimed that the Palestinian farmers initiated the attack, and injured two settlers with farming tools. The settlers were all armed with military-grade weapons. None of the Palestinians involved in the incident were armed.

In the attack on Friday, Israeli settlers from the settlement of Maol, near Hebron, entered an olive grove near the village of Kharoubeh and chopped down trees belonging to local Palestinian landowner Jebril Mousa Khalil, according to the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements.

Palestinian shepherds and international non-violent activists who were in the area came to the olive grove to try to stop the destruction, and were chased by the settlers to Tuwani village. According to eyewitnesses, the settlers ran after the activists and shepherds and threw stones at them and at Palestinian homes.

Israeli troops then arrived in the area to ‘protect the Israeli settlers’, as they are mandated to do – even when the settlers are the ones engaging in acts of violence.

Israeli settler attacks increased by 50% in 2011, and have continued to increase in the first months of 2012, although official numbers are not yet available.