No injuries reported as Jewish settlers attack U.S. consular aides investigating damage claims in West Bank
JERUSALEM — Jewish settlers attacked American consular officials Friday during a visit the officials made to the West Bank as part of an investigation into claims of damage to Palestinian agricultural property, Israeli police and Palestinian witnesses said.
The incident is likely to further chill relations between Israel and the United States, tense over American criticisms of Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and Israeli perceptions that President Obama is only lukewarm in his support of Israeli security policies.
Settlers have often spoken against what they call foreign interference in their affairs, but this is the first known physical attack against diplomatic personnel. A small number of settlers threw rocks at officials who had come to an area near the Jewish settlement outpost of Adi Ad in two consular vehicles to look into Palestinian claims that settlers uprooted scores of Palestinian olive trees the day before, said Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman.
Awad Abu Samra, who owns the land in the village of Tormousyya where the damage to the olive trees was alleged, said he accompanied the officials with two relatives. He described the officials as security personnel who arrived in the village in advance of a larger party from the consulate that was to arrive in the village later in the afternoon.
“There were six security guards from the consulate riding in two cars,” Abu Samra said. “When they got out of the cars, they were attacked by young settlers from the outpost who were carrying clubs and axes. They struck the cars with clubs but the security guards did not respond with their weapons.”
Abu Samra said that when the attack began, the American security guards returned to their vehicles and drove away, explaining that they were under strict instructions not to engage the settlers in any way. He said that the planned visit of the additional officials from the consulate was called off.
Peter Galus, a U.S. consular spokesman, confirmed that American consular personnel were pelted by rocks thrown by settlers.