The IDF pulled out a paratroop company from Yitzhar on Thursday after soldiers guarding the settlement were subjected to numerous attacks by settlers from the community.
Military sources in Central Command said the decision came after a spate of recent verbal and physical attacks on soldiers guarding the settlement.
According to the sources, in recent months there had been a sharp increase in settler violence at Yitzhar and other settlements directed at members of the security forces. On Wednesday, 10 masked settlers attacked a soldier guarding the settlement, assaulted him physically and verbally, pushed him to the ground, and stole his army radio. Following a discussions between settler leaders and IDF commanders the radio was eventually returned.
Hours prior to the incident, the tires of the local commander's jeep were punctured by settlers from the community, the army said. A statement issued by the army condemned the physical and verbal violence directed at soldiers and the damage to IDF equipment.
According to the sources, Yitzhar settlers last November caused $30,000 worth of damage to electronic surveillance equipment installed by the army to enhance the settlers' security.
The army would continue to conduct patrols in the area to protect the settlers, and would continue to man a nearby surveillance position, the sources said.
Several senior IDF commanders were physically attacked by settlers from the community in a number of incidents last year.
In April, a Border Police company was charged with patrolling Yitzhar to enforce law and order and prevent unprovoked attacks by Jewish extremists on Israeli security forces and Palestinian civilians.
OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh and Judea and Samaria Police Commander Yisrael Yitzhak made the decision after the army was forced to remove a paratrooper unit based in the settlement after settlers attacked soldiers, punctured the tires of IDF vehicles and cut off their water supply. Months later, however, the IDF company was reinstated and returned to guarding the settlement.
In recent months there had been a sharp escalation in attacks by Jewish activists on members of the security forces, IDF sources said. Last month a senior IDF officer told The Jerusalem Post
that "the behavior and actions of extremist Jewish groups operating in Samaria pose a far greater threat to the people of Israel than that of terror actions." The officer warned that if the situation were left unchecked, the problem would continue to increase and turn into a problem of national proportions.
Describing the actions of the activists as "a volcano waiting to erupt," the officer declared that an entire generation of youth, once considered to be the cream of the crop, were becoming detached from the state and its institutions and symbols.
According to the officer, in 2005 attacks by Jewish extremists on members of the security forces almost doubled (92.4% increase). There was a total of 157 attacks on security forces compared with 83 in 2004. According to army data, the main trouble spots are Kedumim, Yitzhar and Eilon Moreh.
Meanwhile the Post
has learned that 21 restraining orders were issued to suspected Jewish extremists four days prior to the demolition of nine illegal dwellings at Amona, effectively barring them from reaching the site.
Issued at the recommendation of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), they were signed by Naveh and distributed to the suspected troublemakers on Sunday. It then became the responsibility of the Israel Police to ensure that those who received the orders abided by them, military sources said.
Curbing their movement and confining them to specific areas until after the evacuation was concluded failed to prevent the unprecedented violence and excessive force that erupted between the settlers and security forces on Wednesday. However, it served to heighten the problems security forces will be confronted with as they plan for the evacuations of three illegal outposts in northern Samaria, that are expected to be carried out before the March elections, security officials said.