New IDF unit to combat extreme settlers

IDF forms rapid-response

Facing a rising wave in settler violence, the IDF Central Command has established a new rapid-response security team that will be responsible for cracking down on right-wing extremists and preventing violence between Jewish settlers and Palestinians in the West Bank. Last week, right-wing activists threw a Molotov cocktail at security forces in the West Bank illegal outpost of Havat Gilad. On Tuesday night, IDF jeep tires were punctured by spikes left on the road leading to the settlement of Yitzhar and on Wednesday, Border Police jeep tires were punctured by spikes left on a road near Havat Gilad. The IDF could not say for certain that the spikes were scattered on the road by the settlers. "There is without a doubt a rising level of violence in recent weeks," an officer in the Central Command said. "The idea behind the unit is to provide a rapid response to prevent friction and violence between settlers, security forces and Palestinians." Tension has been on the rise in West Bank settlements - particularly in northern Samaria - in recent months since Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced plans to evacuate some 23 illegal outposts throughout the territories. "The settlers crossed red lines. They have uprooted Palestinian trees, kicked a Border Police officer and threw a Molotov cocktail at security forces," the officer said. "We fear that this trend could lead to more violence and possibly terror attacks." The establishment of the new unit was ordered by OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Shamni. It will be comprised of border policemen but will be subordinate to the IDF. "The idea is to have a force that can deploy in certain areas within a matter of minutes," an IDF source said. "This way, we can hopefully prevent violent incidents from escalating out of control." The IDF has difficulty collecting evidence in the West Bank for violent crimes against Palestinians and security forces, and therefore rarely arrests those responsible. Last week, for example, a Palestinian claimed to have been shot by a settler, but the IDF and Police could not obtain sufficient evidence to corroborate the story and track down the shooter. No one has been arrested for the Molotov cocktail attack last week, either. Due to this difficulty, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) has also been increasing its operations within settlements and right-wing circles in an effort to collect intelligence on instigators, which could later be used in court to indict a suspect or issue an administrative detention order.