Clashes erupted in northern Samaria on Thursday as settlers from Yitzhar resisted an attempt by the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria to issue a demolition order in the settlement against a housing start, which it claimed was built in defiance of the freeze on such construction.
By the evening, seven settlers and right-wing activists had been detained by police. One of them was caught trying to set a Palestinian field on fire.
The violence began after civil administration inspectors arrived in the settlement – known as a hotbed for Jewish extremism – to issue a demolition order for a structure that was being built illegally and against the government-imposed freeze on new construction in the settlements.
Backed by police, the inspectors tried confiscating a bulldozer working at the site. The driver refused and clashes erupted, with settler youth hurling rocks at policemen and burning tires along the settlement roads.
Yitzhar spokesman Avraham Binyamin said that construction was authorized, but did not provide the date by which it had been permitted.
He added that some of the settlers who had peacefully lain in the road to protest the event had been brutally dragged away by the police.
Tensions had been high in the settlement since the morning, when police and IDF raided several homes at 4:30 a.m. and detained a number of settlers for questioning on suspicion that they were involved in a recent spate of anti-Palestinian attacks and had participated in riots in the area.
Following the clashes in the settlement, a number of settlers marched through the nearby Palestinian town of Hawara and hurled rocks at windows of nearby homes. Palestinian villagers said the settlers fled the village after people from inside a home called for help through a loudspeaker and a crowd of Palestinians converged on the area. Israeli soldiers later arrived on the scene to keep the sides separated.
Earlier this week, the IDF announced that it was establishing a special task force of border policemen to enforce law and order in the Yitzhar area.
Binyamin said that for the last three days, police had been engaged in a “price tag” policy of their own. At certain times each day the police would handed out tickets to any vehicle that entered the settlement, he said.
The decision, made by OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrachi on Monday, came less than a week after settlers from Yitzhar violently attacked soldiers near the settlement on Independence Day.
The decision to establish the task force also comes amid concerns in the Central Command that attacks against Palestinians will escalate in the coming months as the government debates a possible extension of the construction freeze.
Other recent incidents include two Palestinian vehicles that were set
on fire near Kedumim and spray-painted with the words “price tag,” a
term labeling the rampage as the work of settlers angry over government
actions against the settlements.
A mosque in the Palestinian town of Hawara, south of Nablus, was also
defiled, after masked men spray painted a Star of David and the word
Mohammed – in Hebrew – on the wall of a mosque.
Pinchas Wallerstein, the former director-general of the Council of
Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip said that the
“hilltop youth were the greatest disaster to have happened to the to
the right-wing.” Tovah Lazaroff and Yaakov Lapin contributed to this report.