Palestinian truckers fear for safety after convoy for Gaza wrecked

HEBRON, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian hauliers said on Tuesday they feared for the security of supply convoys to Gaza, a day after Israeli protesters wrecked trucks carrying goods bound for the enclave, which is facing a severe hunger crisis.

Footage circulated on social media showed at least one burning truck while other images showed trucks wrecked and stripped of their loads, which lay strewn over the road near Tarqumiya checkpoint outside Hebron in the occupied West Bank.

Waseem Al-Jabari, head of the Hebron Food Trade Association, said 70 truckloads of commercial goods had been scheduled to the Gaza Strip.

"While the trucks were uploaded with products at the crossing settlers attacked the trucks and they destroyed the products and set fire in trucks," he said, saying Israeli soldiers had stood by as the attack took place.

Monday's incident was claimed by a group calling itself Order 9, which said it had acted to stop supplies reaching Hamas and accusing the Israeli government of giving "gifts" to the Islamist group.

No comment was available from the Israeli military. The Israeli police said the incident, in which a number of people were arrested, was being investigated.

The violent protest drew condemnation from Washington, which has urged Israel to step up deliveries of aid into Gaza to alleviate a growing humanitarian crisis in the enclave, seven months since the start of the war.

British Foreign Minister David Cameron also condemned the "appalling" incident, saying Israel must call the attackers to account.

Palestinians and human rights groups have long accused the Israeli military and police of deliberately failing to intervene when settlers attack Palestinians in the West Bank.

Adel Amer, a member of the West Bank-based hauliers' union, said around 15 trucks had been damaged by Israeli protesters who beat some drivers and caused about $2 million worth of damage.

"The drivers are now refusing to take goods to Gaza because they're afraid," he said. "It's a disaster here because of the settlers."

Even when the military was present, the convoys were still at risk, he said. "The army says we cannot do anything to the settlers."

(This May 14 story has been corrected to clarify that the trucks were carrying commercial goods, not aid, in the headline, and in paragraphs 1 and 3)

(Reporting by Yosri Al Jamal; Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Ros Russell and Daniel Wallis)