Rabbis from the peace group Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) were attacked by five armed settlers. Some of the men had their faces covered when they threatened to attack the rabbis with clubs.

The attack took place near the settler outpost of Mitzpeh Yutzahr, which is connected to one of the most hard-line settlements of Yitzahr, near Nablus.

Rabbi Arik Ascherman, executive director of RHR, was beaten by a settler as he went to show solidarity with Palestinian villagers who were preparing to harvest their olives in a few weeks.

Shock

Rabbi Ascherman told Aljazeera.net that he would not be deterred from assisting Palestinians in protecting their lives and land and that he felt anger and embarrassment towards the settlers.

''These people believe that their Torah tells them to vandalise land and abuse Palestinian people. I will continue to come here day after day to tell these settlers that they are wrong and that the Torah doesn't teach us Jews to behave in this way.''

The Rabbi described how he, along with a delegation of Rabbis, was confronted by armed men.

During the confrontation, one of the settlers pulled off the rabbi's kipa (head cover) telling him that he had no right to wear it.

''They were shouting at us, throwing insults, kicking us and throwing stones. Then I saw one of the men, who looked like he was in his early 20s. He had a large club in his hand which he used to severely beat a member of our group. Later he tried to use it to beat me.''

Education

Rabbi Ascherman describes the settlers at Mitzpeh Yitzar as ''fanatical and violent''.

He told Aljazeera.net that he found it disturbing that the children of the original wave of settlers were more violent and hard-line than their parent's generation.

''They have nothing but contempt for Palestinians and Jews like me''

Rabbi Ascherman,
Rabbis for Human Rights

''It's very sad, the fist wave of settlers have brought their children up to hate. They have nothing but contempt for Palestinians and for Jews like me.

"The parents have created monsters that are out of control, in some instances they are even turning on their own parents.''

Palestinians were also beaten by settlers, as the RHR delegation tried to offer them some protection.

''In this country we are fighting to save our soul. The majority of people in Israel don't want these settlements, we understand that they are a major stumbling block to peace.''

Police

Rabbi Ascherman says that the Israeli army and police have told him that they will work vigorously to prosecute the individuals involved in the attack.

''I really hope that I am being told the truth, and that these people will be reprimanded.

"Last year the police investigated a few incidents, but not enough was done to show these people that they are not above the law.''