Price tag attacks are acts of terror, declared Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon as he lashed out at hate crimes against Palestinians, hours after two cars were torched in a West Bank village, and a day after a group of Jews were trapped allegedly en route to vandalize another village.

“The unacceptable phenomenon called ‘price tag’ attack is, in my eyes, a terrorist act in every sense of the word. We are acting and will act against its perpetrators with zero tolerance, and with a stern and determined hand to eradicate it,” said Ya’alon.

On Wednesday morning a Palestinian restaurant owner in the village of Madama near Nablus, was startled to find a number of Jewish vandals, who he described as settlers, outside his business, according to the nongovernmental Israeli group Rabbis for Human Rights.

He discerned that two cars had been torched and that there was graffiti on the wall in yellow paint that said, “revenge for Esh Kodesh” and a Jewish star.

The graffiti referenced the Esh Kodesh outpost where the IDF, on Tuesday morning, had destroyed 200 olive trees that had been planted without authorization.

He unsuccessfully tried to stop the vandals from fleeing in their car, he reported, adding that they tried to run him over.

The interaction between them, he told Rabbis for Human Rights, happened very quickly and he was not able to write down the license plate.

On Tuesday, following the demolition of two of Esh Kodesh’s olive groves, violence broke out between settlers and Palestinians near the Palestinian villages of Jalud and Kusra.

Security forces saw a group of 14 settlers heading to Kusra, and then received a report from Palestinians that the group was trapped in the village.

Palestinians had surrounded the group and beaten them.

Village elders, however, prevented the group from being lynched and protected them until the IDF rescued them.

The IDF and the Palestinians assume that the group intended to execute a price tag attack against the village.

Settlers contended that the group was hiking in the area, when confronted by Palestinians who forcibly brought them to a construction site on the outskirts of the village.

A spokesman for Esh Kodesh said that no one in the outpost was involved in the Kusra incident.

In response, Ya’alon said on Wednesday that Israel cannot allow a situation that morally and legally unacceptable actions spring from, adding that the extremists tar Israel and cause serious harm to the mainstream settlement community, whose members are loyal, law abiding citizens.

“There’s no connection between these law breakers and the settlements and their decent residents,” Ya’alon said.

“We will not allow marginal, extreme and violent groups to forcefully and illegally take control of properties that are not theirs, to threaten Palestinian residents who work their lands, [to perform] thuggish behavior on the ground, in a way that endangers public peace and that could spark a conflagration,” Ya’alon said.

He vowed to activate “all available means” to deal with the far-right elements behind the incidents.

The former head of the Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria Dani Dayan minced no words when he said that such attacks were a “moral calamity and practical idiocy, because they cause only damage and tarnish our image.

“Yesterday’s incident finished without real harm, but it could have disastrous consequences. People that think that they will win our cause with a box of matches will end up setting the place on fire,” Dayan said.

Avi Ro’eh, Dayan’s successor and current head of the Jewish Communities of Jedea and Samaria, had a more measured response. “It’s not our policy and it’s not our way,” he said.

“It doesn’t help the settlements, it harms them.”

Outside the framework of price tag attacks, violence broke out between settlers and Palestinians in other areas of the West Bank.

A clash erupted between three settlers and eight Palestinians, after a settler threatened one of the Palestinians of the Mitzpe Ya’air outpost in the South Hebron hills, security forces said.

Border Police and police arrived on the scene and restored order. The settler has been taken in for questioning.

An Israeli woman, driving east of Kalkilya, was injured from rocks thrown at her vehicle on Wednesday morning.

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