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Settlers set fire to Palestinian village, Israeli firefighters take no action: Report

Video footage shows clouds of smoke rising from a fire that broke out in olive groves and fields belonging to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank after settlers attacked a school in the region.

According to a report published by the English-language Haaretz newspaper, the blaze broke out in the village of Jalud northeast of Ramallah on June 5, the first day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

The Palestinian fire trucks were not able to help much due to a lack of access to the groves, the report said.

The daily said that nine masked people passed near the village’s school and hurled stones at four youths sitting in the courtyard shortly before the fire erupted. The youths fled through the back entrance while five of the attackers entered through the front.

The video, captured by the school’s security camera, showed some of the attackers storming the courtyard of the school while a few masked people burst out from the trees south of the school.

Haaretz said that it was not the first time masked people hurl rocks at the school, even when students were inside.

Later, smoke was recorded being carried toward the southwest.

Another camera recorded smoke a few seconds earlier, with its darkening shadow cast on the empty courtyard. It also showed what is on the east side of the road: an uncultivated field with stones and a few small trees, and behind it, a grove.

The fire spread to the ridge of the stony hill across the road and the olive grove that slopes down from it.

According to village residents, the masked people were settlers and they began the fire.

Scores of the residents fought the fire using branches.

Residents of Jalud said Israeli fire trucks intervened only a little before noon when the fire was approaching a nearby plot cultivated with the trees of the settlement of Shvut Rachel.

The residents said a drone was hovering over them when they were fighting the fire.

The blaze started again in the afternoon, this time in the eastern part of the valley, the report said.

Israeli firefighting helicopters and fire trucks were called in only when the fire left the grove and spread toward the settlement of Ahiya.

Initial Israeli media reports tried to portray the fires as an arson attack carried out by the Palestinians against the orchards of the settlements of Shvut Rachel and Ahiya

Dror Etkes, who studies Israel’s settlement policy, said about 90 percent of the trees damaged were in the Palestinian grove.

Etkes, who toured the area a day later, said only a few dozen of the settlers’ trees were damaged, noting that their damage was less severe than the trees of Jalud.

About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

The UN Security Council has condemned Israel’s settlement activities in the occupied territories in several resolutions.

Less than a month before US President Donald Trump took office, the United Nations Security Council in December 2016 adopted Resolution 2334, calling on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem” al-Quds.

Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.

The last round of Israeli-Palestinian talks collapsed in 2014. Among the major sticking points in those negotiations was Israel’s continued settlement expansion on Palestinian territories.

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