8 cops, 38 settlers hurt in Beit El clashes

By
June 9, 2010 01:16

"One youth called me a Nazi, and they threw big rocks," commander tells ‘Post.'

4 minute read.



Settler youths watch at a cornerstone ceremony for

Settler youths at Beit Hagay 311 . (photo credit: AP)

In one of the most violent incidents since the start of the moratorium on new Jewish construction in the West Bank, eight police officers and 38 settlers were lightly hurt at the Beit El settlement Tuesday morning in clashes between the two groups.

Settlers claimed that police had attacked them with pepper spray, while police contended that they had been stoned and called “Nazis.”

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“We haven’t seen an incident like this, which had so much hatred and violence directed toward us, in the Binyamin region,” said Ch.- Supt. Moti Shoshan, deputy commander of the Binyamin Police station, who led the police forces during the clashes, in which nine settlers were arrested.

“One youth called me a ‘Nazi,’” Shoshan told The Jerusalem Post after the incident.

His forces had gone into Beit El along with members of the civil administration to destroy two shacks that had been been built in violation of the 10-month moratorium on new construction. Students in the nearby high school raced out of class to prevent the demolition. Four settlers were arrested for assaulting and disrupting the officers.

Scores of teens tried to stop the security vehicles from leaving the settlements with the four who had been arrested.

They placed a utility pole in front of a security vehicle, and dozens sat in the road in front of one of the vehicles.

To clear the road, Border Police used pepper spray and clubs.

A spokesman for the Judea and Samaria Police said that some of the 150 teens had tried to block their path and hurled bricks, rocks and paint. A number of the youths threw a smoke grenade at officers, attempted to steal police equipment and punctured tires with spikes.

Seven spikes were seized after the youths were arrested, Shoshan said.

“When they started to throw blocks at us, I ordered my officers to move in,” he added.

“I’m not talking about paint and eggs, but about the big rocks and blocks that were hurled at us from two directions,” he went on. “Some officers were wounded in the back and other areas in the body. Luckily, none were struck on the head. These were big rocks. If an officer had been hit on the head, he would have been seriously injured.”

Shoshan said the rioters had been encouraged to confront police by Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed, the settlement’s rabbi. He accused Melamed of having created a violent atmosphere

Melamed refused to comment on the incident.

Shoshan insisted that police had gone to Beit El without intending to confront anyone

“We had a number of detained youths in our custody, and we were asked by residents to let them go,” he explained

“I had no problem with letting them go, because their involvement was not major. But then Rabbi Melamed instructed his followers to make more demands, saying we must delete photographs we took. Then I realized these were just stalling tactics and that they were trying to prevent us from leaving.”

 In addition to the four arrests at the start of the incident, two minors were detained on suspicion of planning to attack officers, police said. A third, female suspect was arrested for attacking an officer. Two youths who had been seen throwing rocks at police earlier were arrested outside the settlement.

Shoshan said the clash was “one of the most severe incidents that we have seen since the ban on new settlement construction went into effect” on November 26.

But some eyewitnesses said it had been the police who acted violently, particularly by using pepper spray at close range.

One woman called it a “pogrom.” Eyewitnesses also noted that security forces had come at a time when yeshiva students could be easily rallied to oppose them.

Had the forces entered at 4 a.m., this never would have happened, said one.

To protest the incident, the Binyamin Citizens’ Committee held six separate protest rallies on Tuesday evening. One was next to the T-junction on Route 60, another was at the Shiloh junction, and a third took place next to Kochav Ya’acov.

Three other rallies were held next to the homes of civil administration employees in Jerusalem, as well as in the Ofra and Peduel settlements.

A spokesman for the Binyamin Citizens’ Committee added that as a protest gesture, work had been started on a new home in Efrat.


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