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Israeli soldiers join settlers in harvesting grapes in illegal settlement

Occupied West Bank (QNN)- Israeli forces soldiers joined extremist settlers from settlement of Yitzhar, an illegal settlement built on Palestinian land, in harvesting grapes, Kan news reported.

Kan news reported that Israeli soldiers, stationed in the area, from the paratrooper commandos joined extremist settlers in harvesting grapes at a vineyard belonging to the illegal settlement of Yitzhar.

The newspaper claimed that the soldiers volunteered to help harvest as part of an “education and heritage” session.

A military source, however, told the newspaper that no one was forced to participate and it was “voluntary.”

The source added that the “mistake was in the bureaucracy, the approvals were not obtained from the required levels. It’s a learning problem.”

The IOF officially acknowledged this was against the orders, and said that procedures were “refreshed”, because the forces should not be blending with the settlers.

Following the reports, MK Bezalel Smotrich, leader of Religious Zionism party, stated that this vineyard was planted by a soldier injured by “terrorists during his reserve service,” and that “security and settlement always went together since Zionism’s early days”.

He also claimed that IOF soldiers support the settlements and are deeply connected to the settlers, adding “they are not from the UN – they serve in Judea and Samaria in order to protect settlements and the Jewish state of Israel.”

Dror Etkes, a left-wing anti-settlement activist, however, replyed to the reports and said this vineyard is on private Palestinian land and that it was cultivated by the owners till the second intifada, when the Israeli occupation prevented them from accessing it, adding between 2007-2008, a settler invaded the plot and planted the grapevines.

Etkes also confirmed that the settler who invaded the plot received a loan from the WZO’s settlement division the same year for planting a vineyard.

The Settlement Division is a private body that acts under the World Zionist Organization, but is wholly financed by Israeli public funds. It acts as a government agent in assigning land to Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank.

Yitzhar settlement is widely known as a hotbed of Israeli settler violence against Palestinians. The illegal settlement was founded in 1983 as a military outpost that soon turned into a settlers settlement. Nearby Palestinian villages previously used the land for agricultural purposes, and Palestinian villagers are frequently targeted with violence by Yitzhar settlers.

There are nearly 700,000 Israeli settlers living in 256 illegal settlements and outposts scattered across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.

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