Palestinian and Israeli sources said the attack occurred on Wednesday.

According to the Hebron-based Christian Peace Making Team (CPT), five settlers carrying iron chains and baseball clubs, assaulted two male and female volunteers who were escorting Palestinian schoolchildren to their school at the village of Tuba near the settlement of Maon in the southern Hebron hills.

The assailants reportedly beat the two volunteers and robbed them. The pair were evacuated by an Israeli ambulance to a hospital in the southern Israeli town of Be'ir Sheva were their condition is said to be moderate.

The assailants also stole a bag belonging to a female volunteer named Kim Lamberty. The bag contained a passport, money and a cellular phone. It is not clear if the settlers had wanted to attack Palestinian schoolchildren who fled to their homes.

Volunteers severly beaten

CPT spokesperson in Hebron, Cal Carpenter told Aljazeera.net that one of the volunteers had a collapsed lung while a woman volunteer had sustained cuts and bruises.

"They apparently were unhappy to see us stand by the kids whom the settlers want to abuse….so they thought that we were frustrating their efforts"

Cal Carpenter,
Christian Peacemaking Team

Asked why he thought the settlers assaulted his colleagues, Carpenter said the settlers "didn't like what we were doing, namely escorting Palestinian kids to their schools."

"They apparently were unhappy to see us stand by the kids whom the settlers want to abuse… they thought that we were frustrating their efforts."

Carpenter said the CPT volunteers wouldn't be intimidated by the Jewish settlers "savagery."

"We will go to the village tomorrow and we will escort the kids to their school."

According to Palestinian locals, the settlers in the area despise the Christian activists for "helping the Palestinians stay in the area."

'Disrupting efforts'

"The settlers believe the Christians are disrupting their efforts to get the Palestinians to leave the area," one local told Aljazeera.net.

Peace activists are
often man-handled

The incident came less than 48 hours after a Jewish settler from a settlement near the Northern West Bank town of Nablus murdered a Palestinian driver and father of eight children.

The settler, however, has been freed from police custody and placed under temporary house arrest.

The Israeli army, in concert with settler leaders in the area, have been trying to expel several hundred Palestinian families from the area for the purpose of expanding the settlement of Maon.

Two years ago, the army destroyed hundreds of caves and many cisterns belonging to Palestinians in order to force them to leave.

Relations between the settlers and the Christian volunteers have never been good.

Jewish settlers, indoctrinated by a staunchly anti-Christian ideology, routinely throw rocks and shout obscenities at the volunteers.