Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter blasted violence against police officers on Wednesday, hours after three police officers were attacked by a crowd of yeshiva students in Yitzhar, when the three arrived at the Samarian settlement to look in to security arrangements at local schools and yeshivas.
Dichter, who was meeting with settler leaders at the time of the incident, told the heads of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (Yesha) "we must maintain an open line of communication between us, but we will bring to justice anyone who raises a hand against a police officer or prison warden."
Dichter, who upon entering the ministry promised police that "anyone who threatens to raise his hand against a police officer will meet an iron hand in response," reiterated Wednesday that confronting the phenomenon of violence against police officers was a top priority. "I am worried when people decide to assault security forces," Dichter said. "It is my job as a minister to strengthen the position of those who serve in uniform."
Approximately thirty people whom police identified as students at the Od Yosef Hai yeshiva hurled rocks at the police and their patrol car, causing severe damage to the vehicle. The police officers, who said that they had been surrounded by the crowd and feared for their lives, fired one warning shot in to the air to disperse the crowd and escape.
"The patrol was concerned with checking the security of students in the settlement," said a police officer from the Judea and Samaria District. The district security coordination officer and the Samaria subdistrict security commander, as well as the third non-commissioned officer were traveling throughout the subdistrict to examine school security arrangements.
Police said that some of the assailants had worn masks to conceal their identities. Police reinforcements were called in, and carried out searches in order to apprehend the protesters.
Representatives of the yeshiva did not return the Post's phone calls, and offered no comment in reaction to the day's events. In an announcement released to Arutz 7, the yeshiva said that neither the yeshiva's leadership nor the leadership of Yitzhar had "any interest in joining in the trail of libel" and said that the head of the yeshiva had gone voluntarily to the police in order to reduce the tension and calm the situation.
A source in the Internal Security Ministry told The Jerusalem Post that police had already identified suspects in the violence. Three students, described by police as adults, were arrested on Wednesday evening, and the head of the yeshiva was detained by police for questioning. The police officers who were attacked positively identified the three students as among those involved in the stone-throwing.
As of press time MK Uri Ariel (National Union) was trying to set up a meeting between the police and members of the Yitzhar settlement in hopes of averting any more clashes between settlers living there and the police. Binyamin Regional Council head Pinchas Wallerstein condemned the attack.
"It's a very serious matter," he said.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report