A British man volunteering in the West Bank has been hospitalised following an attack by a gang of Israeli settlers. David Amos, 66, said that he was trying to protect Palestinian farmers when a group of gun-wielding Israeli settlers began throwing rocks at him.
The former publishing company worker was transported by ambulance to a hospital in Nablus and had to receive five stitches for a gash to his head. The Independent heard that the Israeli settlers appeared from the direction of the Yizhar settlement and were shooting guns and carrying large rocks as they approached the farmland near the Palestinian village of Burin. Two other British women were also said to be there at the time.
"They were shouting at us 'go' in English and also shouting in Hebrew," Amos told the Independent. "A man stood no more than four feet from me and threw his rock which hit me on the back of the head. I was sitting upright and I fell over on my side and then he and two others kicked me. The women were shouting, 'We are British', so they knew we were British before the rock was thrown."
Amos and his colleagues were visiting the West Bank with the Olive Harvest Trust, an organisation that recruits oversees volunteers to work on Palestine's olive groves. The group said that by engaging volunteers to support Palestinian farmers during the olive harvest, it makes it "less likely that settlers and Israeli military will harass the farmers". According to the organisation more than 800,000 olive trees have been destroyed by the Israeli military or settlers in the West bank since 1967.
According to the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), settlers were seen setting fire to the grass on the edge of the olive groves, which eventually burnt olive trees. A spokesperson for ISM also said that the owner of the land, Abed Musaa, was hit by stones and had to be treated for lacerations and bruising.
A statement from the organisation said: "Palestinian civil workers, farmers, and international human rights defenders attempted to put out the blaze with sand, shovels, and olive branches but were unable to stop the spread of the fire amid 30 degrees heat and rising winds."
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said that the annual olive harvest has significant economic, social and cultural importance for Palestinians, with roughly half the agricultural land of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) planed with approximately 8 million olive trees. According to UNRWA olive oil accounts for 14% of the OPT's agricultural income and supports the livelihoods of roughly 80,000 families.
"Since January 2013, UNRWA has documented the burning, poisoning, and uprooting of around 900 Palestine refugee-owned olive trees in the vicinity of Yitzhar and Bracha settlements," a UNRWA report said. "Furthermore, over 280 dunums of agricultural and grazing-land have been burned by settlers in the area. With olive trees being damaged or destroyed on an on-going basis throughout the year, refugees suffering losses say that year-round protection for their property is as important as protection during the olive harvest."