Israeli settlers stone two cars belonging to US consulate staff
US security staff reportedly unholster weapons during standoff in Jerusalem between US consular party and far-right settlers from illegal West Bank outpost
Members of Israeli security forces take position during clashes following the death of senior Palestinian official Ziad Abu Ein. Photograph: APAImages/Rex
Peter Beaumont in Jerusalem
Friday 2 January 2015 11.10 EST
Israeli settlers have stoned two cars belonging to the staff of the US consulate in Jerusalem during an angry stand-off in which US security guards – according to conflicting accounts – reportedly unholstered their weapons.
The confrontation – unusual in seeing US diplomatic staff targeted – occurred between a US consular party and far-right settlers from the illegal Adei Ad outpost on the occupied West Bank on Friday.
While the initial details are sketchy it appears the US diplomats – accompanied by a security team – had been in the area after being invited by Palestinian farmers from the village of Turmus Aya, north-east of Ramallah, to examine olive saplings that had been uprooted overnight on Thursday by settlers.
The consular officials were asked to attend because some of the land owners affected hold US citizenship.
According to Palestinian reports quoting land owners, in recent days settlers uprooted more than 5,000 olive tree saplings, some of which had been planted to mark the recent death of senior Palestinian official Ziad Abu Ein, who collapsed and died after being manhandled by an Israeli soldier.
When the US vehicles arrived on the scene, close to the outpost, settlers exited the outpost and a confrontation ensued in which the American cars were stoned. It was during this confrontation that US security officers drew a side arm and a rifle.
Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said the settlers threw rocks at the officials who were forced to return to their vehicle.
She said that accompanying American security personnel did not use their weapons during the incident.
According to Israeli officials quoted by Israel Radio the US convoy had not coordinated with security officials before making the visit.
“The settlers attacked the cars of the US consulate in the town Turmus Aya near the settlement of Adi Ad,” a local Palestinian, Zakaria Sadah, posted on his Facebook page.
The US armoured vehicles were lightly damaged during the confrontation which saw the visit cancelled.
Vandalism by settlers of Palestinian olive trees is a persistent problem with prosecutions very rare.
There was no comment from the US embassy.
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