File Photo: Israeli settlers throwing rocks at Palestinian in the west bank. Photo courtesy of WAFA news agency
Video of Tuesday's attack released by an Israeli rights group showed several shirtless settlers with scarves wrapped around their faces hurling stones at a cluster of homes and vehicles. Israeli troops stood among the settlers but did not appear to be taking any action to stop them.
The Israeli occupation military declined to comment, saying it was still gathering information.
Sami Hureini, a local Palestinian activist, said a group of Israeli settlers attacked a Palestinian shepherd near the village of Mufaqara and slaughtered four of his sheep. He said they then stormed the village itself, attacking residents with clubs and stones.
He said a four-year-old boy, Mohammed Bakr, was hospitalized with a head injury.
The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem released video of the attack and provided a similar account. It said Israeli troops fired tear gas at Palestinian residents and arrested at least one Palestinian. An Israeli soldier can be seen throwing a tear gas grenade at the Palestinian who filmed the attack and then shoving him.
Nearly 500,000 Israeli settlers live in the occupied West Bank, which Israel occupied in the 1967 war. The territory is home to more than 2.5 million Palestinians, and the Palestinians want it to form the main part of their future state.
In addition to more than 120 authorized settlements, more radical settlers have established dozens of outposts in rural parts of the West Bank. Israeli authorities are reluctant to dismantle them because doing so usually ignites clashes between the settlers and security forces. The Palestinians and the international community consider all settlements to be illegal and an obstacle to peace.
B'Tselem said the settlers who took part in the attack came from two nearby outposts, Avigayil and Havat Maon. The area has seen a series of recent settler attacks. B'Tselem and other rights groups say Israeli forces often turn a blind eye to settler violence or side with the settlers in clashes with Palestinians.
Mohammed Amr, a local Palestinian official, said the ``unprecedented'' attack was aimed at driving Palestinians off the land to make way for more settlement. ``The goal is to force these citizens to leave their homes and lands,'' he said.
*This story was edited by Ahram Online.