10 activists arrested in outpost protest

Demonstrators burn tires on Highway 1; MK Ben-Ari detained after blocking police in West Bank.

By ABE SELIG,
June 1, 2009 08:40
10 activists arrested in outpost protest

settlers throw stones 248 ap. (photo credit: AP)

Rumors that outposts in Samaria would be evacuated on Monday sparked clashes between settlers, security personnel and Palestinians in which at least 10 activists were arrested, along with MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union). Settlers and right-wing activists burned tires and blocked roads both in Samaria and along Route 1 at the western entrance to Jerusalem. In Samaria, they allegedly threw rocks, set fire to Palestinian fields and attacked Palestinians, wounding six of them. Ben-Ari was taken into custody after standing on the front bumper of an armored Border Police vehicle near the Yitzhar settlement in an attempt to check on the welfare of two young activists who sat handcuffed in the back. Ben-Ari said he was punched and kicked by Border Guard officers. A Border Guard spokesman denied the claim. Although security forces did not evacuate any of the 26 outposts that Israel has promised the United States it would remove, it did demolish a small fledgling one near Elon Moreh called Nahalat Yosef. Former Kedumim mayor Daniella Weiss vowed that local Jewish residents would resist any attempts to remove them, "no matter how harsh the policy of the Israeli government will be against us. The policy of dismantling outposts is an opening phase for withdrawal. This will not ensure the future security of the State of Israel." Esther Karish, a former deputy mayor of Kedumim and a spokeswoman for the Samaria Citizens' Committee, said she knew nothing about any attacks against Palestinians. Nor, she said, did she know if settlers had on Monday implemented their "price tag" policy of attacking Palestinians and/or their property as a response to the destruction of Jewish property by the IDF or the Border Police. But, she said, settlers certainly took steps to defend their homes, including blocking roads to settlements and outposts to prevent the security forces from destroying outposts, which they believe are legal communities. "We are not racing after them, but when they come like thieves in the night, we are responding," Karish said. Ever since Defense Minister Ehud Barak spoke last month of evacuating 26 unauthorized outposts erected after March 2001, settlers have been nervous, she said. They have not been assuaged by statements made by Barak and the Defense Ministry that they did not plan to remove them before trying to strike a deal for their voluntary evacuation with the settler leadership. On Sunday night, settlers began receiving warnings that security personnel were coming to evacuate the Ramat Gilad outpost, near Karnei Shomron; Gilad Farm, near Kedumim; and Mitzpe Yitzhar, near Yitzhar, Karish said. The news came as the Zar family and their friends and supporters gathered for a memorial service to Gilad Zar, for whom Ramat Gilad and Gilad Farm were named. Gilad Zar was killed by a Palestinian sniper in May 2001 as he drove near the Yitzhar junction. Hundreds of activists gathered at the three outposts in preparation for an evacuation. Among those who went to Gilad Farm was Gershon Mesika, who heads the Samaria Regional Council. "We were very scared," Karish said. Gilad Farm has 20 families, Ramat Gilad has 10 and Mitzpe Yitzhar has seven. Fears was heightened in the morning when eight IDF buses entered the area. Four turned out to be part of a tour that had nothing to do with outposts. Another four, she said, headed in the direction of Elon Moreh, where security officials destroyed a small temporary outpost known as Nahalat Yosef or Nati's Farm. Border Police officers said they destroyed three caravans at the site, which was used as a ranch. Settlers sent out pictures later in the day which showed activists rebuilding the outpost by putting up a wooden hut. Nahalat Yosef is not on the list of unauthorized outposts that attorney Talia Sasson presented to the government in 2005. Although the Defense Ministry has done little to destroy the outposts on Sasson's list, it has been fairly vigilant about taking down the fledgling outposts that often consist of wooden huts and flimsy structures that activists had erected in a dozen spots in Judea and Samaria in the past two years. Although security forces met no resistance at Nahalat Yosef, they did clash with settlers in other areas throughout the day. According to police, early on Monday morning, a group of some 100 settlers blocked Road 55 near Yitzhar. Police arrived soon arrived and arrested six people while reopening the road to traffic. "Although we made arrests during the first protest, it was a relatively quiet incident," a police spokesman told The Jerusalem Post. "Only later did things become violent." Later, at the same junction, youths and security forces clashed again, resulting in two arrests. It was then that MK Ben-Ari was arrested. Speaking early Monday morning about a separate incident, a Border Police spokesman said a group of masked youths burned tires and stoned passing Palestinian vehicles with rocks near the Karnei Shomron and Kedumim settlements. Police reported that one man, an Israeli-Arab, was lightly wounded by rocks during the incident. Palestinians, however, told reporters that six Palestinian laborers riding in a minivan were injured when stone-throwing settlers attacked them, including Yahye Sadah, who was hit in the head. "I was hit in the head by a rock from a distance of 3 meters. I ran away. I thought I'd die," said Sadah, 44, who spoke from a nearby hospital after getting six stitches. Police and security forces responded to that incident as well, but police said the attackers fled the area and that no arrests had been made. A few hours later, settlers torched a wooded hilltop near Nablus and set trees and Palestinian agricultural land on fire near Hawara, south of the city, according to local council chief Ali Eid. Romel Sweiti, a Hawara resident, said nearly four dunams (0.4 hectares) of land was burned and that about 50 teenage settler girls had gathered on a main road and blocked traffic as border policemen stood in the background. The violence moved to Jerusalem later in the day as some 50 right-wing activists burned tires and blocked rush-hour traffic at the entrance to Jerusalem on Highway 1 on Monday evening. Police and municipal workers were called in to disperse the protesters and clear the burning wreckage from the road, police said. "A group of protesters attempted to block the entrance to Jerusalem a number of times on Monday evening, and four of them were arrested before the crowd was dispersed," a police spokesman told the Post. "These actions were connected to the incidents that took place in the West Bank today, and the disturbances that occurred there in protest of the outpost evacuations." Even before Monday's clashes, settlers and right-wing activists had planned a series of protests with an eye toward US President Barack Obama's much anticipated speech in Cairo this Thursday. On Tuesday evening, they plan to gather near the Nokdim settlement at the Ma'aleh Rehavam outpost, which is also slated for demolition. On Wednesday, they plan a protest outside the US Consulate in the capital. Jerusalem Post staff and AP contributed to this report.


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