The Israeli military has admitted that one of the two extremist Jewish settlers recently caught on video setting fire to Palestinian farming fields in the occupied West Bank is an Israeli soldier who was on leave at the time.
As Reported by Qods News Agency (Qodsna) The military announced in a statement on Sunday that the settler seen setting fire to the fields was an off-duty soldier from an Israeli combat unit.
“The incident happened when the soldier was on leave, and so the matter was passed on to the Israel police,” the statement read. “At the same time, the soldier has been suspended from his duties.”
The Israeli military had previously blamed the arson on Palestinians, saying that it had extinguished “a fire set by Palestinians near Asirah al-Qibliyah” after clashes broke out on May 17 between Israeli settlers from the nearby settlement of Yitzhar and Palestinians from the surrounding villages of Burin, Urif, and Asirah al-Qibliyah.
The army then corrected the statement after Israeli rights NGO B'Tselem published a video showing Israeli settlers walking through Palestinian fields and igniting fires.
In another video from the clashes, Israeli troops could be seen standing by and watching as settlers throw rocks at Palestinians.
According to B’Tselem, the Israeli military had granted “almost total immunity” to the settlers involved in the attacks with neither of them being interrogated or arrested.
The Israeli military refused to comment on why no settlers had been arrested.
Yitzhar settlers are notorious in the West Bank for extremist violence, and are frequently involved in violent attacks against Palestinians.
More than half a million Israelis live in over 120 settlements built since Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank in 1967. This is while much of the international community considers the settler units illegal and subject to the Geneva Conventions, which forbid construction on occupied land.