A widely publicized police allegation that settlers threw acid at a policeman during the evacuation of a four-story Hebron apartment building in December 2008 was unsubstantiated, The Jerusalem Post has established.
Border Police and the IDF made a surprise raid on the structure - known as Beit Hashalom - in the midst of a legal dispute between Hebron's Jewish community and a local Palestinian, both of whom claim the rights to the property. A Jerusalem court is still adjudicating the matter.
During the evacuation by security personnel on December 4, 2008, many media outlets, including the Post, reported a police claim that settlers threw acid into a police officer's eye.
But subsequent investigation by the Post has established that no one was formally charged with acid-throwing in the months following the incident, and no evidence has been presented to substantiate the claim.
A former Judea and Samaria Police spokesman confirmed that he sent the media a message during the evacuation alleging the acid attack, after being told by a police medic who was on the scene that an irritant was thrown into an officer's eye.
The spokesman said he did not know what medical diagnosis had been reached by hospital doctors who later treated the policeman. Neither the police nor the Police Investigations Department has asked the former spokesman to comment on the issue since the incident, he added.
A police check carried out at the request of the Post found that state prosecutors did not charge any suspect arrested in connection with the evacuation for acid attacks.
Thirty people were arrested on the day of the evacuation and in the days leading up to it. Since then, 20 suspects have been indicted on charges ranging from assaulting an officer to interfering with a police officer and preventing him from carrying out his duties.
Susie Dym, a spokeswoman for the pro-settler organization Mattot Arim, said that settlers and the right-wing community had always mistrusted the authenticity of the acid claim and suspected that it was false.
Dym said the lack of any subsequent charges or further personal testimony by police and prosecutors had led her to conclusively dismiss the claim.
Dym had urged the Post to examine the veracity of the acid-throwing charge, as the allegation had continued to resurface in the media and was cited as an example of settler violence, she said.
It was important, she added, to set the record straight in light of what she described as a litany of false charges being directed at settlers. "They have not committed one-thousandth of the [crimes] of which they have been accused," Dym said.
Some 600 members of the security forces, made up of soldiers, civilian police officers and Border Police entered the building during the evacuation last December.
Twenty-three activists and four police officers sustained light and moderate injuries during the operation. The bulk of the activists resisted the evacuation non-violently.
Once the building was cleared, police told reporters the situation could have taken a more violent turn and displayed to reporters home-made weapons they had found in the house - including 30 potatoes laced with nails as well as a stockpile of home-cleaning detergents, which they said they suspected had been assembled for possible use against security personnel.
After the evacuation, settler youths took over a Palestinian home in a nearby valley situated between Kiryat Arba and Hebron. They also lit a fire that threatened a Palestinian home nearby.
Settlers and Palestinians pelted one another with rocks, and another group of settlers entered the Palestinian-controlled part of Hebron and set fire to at least three cars.
In the most serious incident, a 51-year-old settler from Kiryat Arba allegedly shot and wounded two Palestinian men during a confrontation in Hebron.
The alleged gunman, Ze'ev Braude, was arrested, but state prosecutors later dropped charges of aggravated assault against him after Braude's defense attorney demanded that a witness to the shooting who is an undercover member of the security forces testify in the trial.
State prosecutors said the exposure of the witness would harm national security, and dropped charges against Braude so that the witness would not have to come forward.