BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Settlers from the illegal Israeli outpost of Adei Ad on Friday hurled stones at American consulate vehicles as officials prepared to visit the Palestinian village of Turmusayya near Ramallah, after thousands of olive tree seedlings were uprooted by settlers in the area, Israeli media reported.
The Israeli news site Ynet said the rocks caused damage to a consulate vehicle, and when the confrontation escalated, American security guards drew weapons but never fired.
A Palestinian official from the village of Turmusayya said the US delegation was invited to witness the recent destruction of olive tree saplings, some of which belonged to Palestinians with American citizenship, the report said.
Security guards arrived at the area to check for any safety risks while the American delegation waited in the village. Settlers claimed they arrived without prior coordination, adding that the visit was scheduled for next week, according to the Israeli report.
Settlers then stoned two vehicles, at which point the guards pulled out their weapons. As the vehicles left the area, armed settlers were seen stationed at the outpost.
The visit to the site was canceled after the incident.
An American consulate spokesperson did not immediately respond to emails from Ma’an Friday evening.
On Thursday, locals said Jewish settlers uprooted more than 5,000 olive tree saplings in agricultural lands east of Turmusayya.
One of the owners of the lands targeted, Awad Abu Samra, told Ma’an that in the last week settlers have repeatedly raided the area to attack the olive tree saplings.
He estimated that the assailants had managed to uproot around 5,000 olive tree saplings out of a total of 8,000 that had been planted since mid-December in the area, known as al-Zahrat.
The saplings had been planted in honor of slain Palestinian official Ziad Abu Ein, who died after being beaten by an Israeli soldier during a march to help plant trees and protest land confiscation in the area on Dec. 10.
Abu Samra said that the settlers who carried out the attacks most likely came from the nearby settlement of Adei Ad, an outpost of the Jewish-only settlement of Shilo located nearby. That settlement was built on lands confiscated from local Palestinians.
Settler violence against Palestinians and their property is common but rarely prosecuted by Israeli authorities.
Over 500,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.