Settlers clash with IDF, Palestinians

Fears that the violence, that followed the evacuation of an illegal structure, signals a new tactic.

yitzhar 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
yitzhar 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
A settlement activist held a knife to a soldier's neck and another stole a gun and fired it into the air in Samaria on Thursday, in the aftermath of the evacuation of a structure at the unauthorized Adei Ad outpost. It was the most serious clash between security forces and activists since the evacuation of nine empty homes at the Amona outpost on February 1, 2006. Senior sources in the IDF Central Command said the chain of events that included an attack on a soldier, arson and stonings of Palestinians in nearby villages in response to the evacuation was a "display of power" by settlers intended to deter security forces from future evacuations. A settler from the area who did not want to be named said that the response - not including the violence against the IDF - was part of a new policy to react harshly to any attempts by security forces to remove Jewish structures in Judea and Samaria. "There will be a heavy price for this from now on," he said. But Rabbis for Human Rights head Rabbi Arik Ascherman, who was in the area on Thursday, said this could not just be chalked up to the evacuation of a structure at Adei Ad. It had to be seen within the larger context of ongoing tensions between settlers in the area and Palestinians that had been increasing in recent months, he said. The incident comes at a time when the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip is trying to forge an agreement on the voluntary evacuation of some unauthorized outposts in exchange for construction permits in permanent settlements. Council head Dani Dayan had no comment on the matter and said he was still being briefed on Thursday's incidents. After security forces evacuated a bus that had been turned into a home at Adei Ad, violence broke out in four locations - around three settlements - Yitzhar and Gilad Farm near Nablus, Shilo, east of Ariel and the Palestinian village of Burin. On Thursday morning, security forces arrived at Adei Ad to evacuate the bus. The operation passed without incident, said Danny Poleg, spokesman for Judea and Samaria Police. Afterward, however, police say they suspect settlers from Yitzhar who had manned the bus either split into a number of groups or moved as one group from one location to another, sparking disturbances wherever they went. Around 20 settlers arrived at the Shiloh junction and began burning tires and causing a disturbance. The settlers fled after police arrived, and officers launched a search for them. At the Yitzhar junction, settlers also threw rocks, damaging a car driven by an Israeli. Police received complaints of stones being thrown inside the nearby Palestinian village of Burin. Security forces carried out a sweep of the area there, too, but did not report making any arrests. The series of incidents then seemed to escalate when an Israeli pulled his vehicle over near an IDF jeep after being targeted by Palestinian stone-throwers. The driver reportedly got out of his car and snatched a gun from a soldier standing nearby, firing a number of rounds in the air. A second Israeli driver also fired in the air with his personal firearm. There were no injuries or damage to property during that incident. The two drivers were detained by police for questioning and then released after it was determined that they had acted out of fear for their lives. One settler said that the man who snatched the gun was from Jerusalem, and took the gun only to deter Palestinians after the soldier failed to react to the stoning. Soon afterward, police received a report of 10 olive trees belonging to Palestinians being torched at Gilad Farm. Security forces dispatched to the scene reported seeing a group of masked men fleeing the area. At Gilad Farm, the IDF said a settler held a knife to a soldier's neck, stole his helmet and then escaped. A search of the area has been launched. Police were not able to immediately link the arson with the earlier incidents. "They have crossed all of the red lines," one officer said, adding that the sequence of events showed that the settlers had set up a mechanism that allowed them to - within minutes - call up activists who would use violence to stop an evacuation. "We will learn many lessons from today," the officer said, adding that severe court-ordered punishment was needed to deter violence. In a separate clash on Thursday, Border Policemen said one of their officers had suffered facial wounds from a rock thrown during a confrontation with a group of Palestinians and left-wing activists demonstrating against the security barrier in Ni'ilin east of Modi'in Illit. The officer was evacuated for medical treatment.