Settlers, soldiers clash in West Bank

Unrest erupts as Ashkenazi praises "close ties" between army, settlers during New Year toast.

Ashkenazi 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Ashkenazi 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Settlers and security personnel came to blows on Sunday over the unauthorized movement of a caravan at the Gilad Farm outpost in Samaria. The incident took place just a few hours after IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Shamni raised their glasses with the settler leadership in a Rosh Hashana toast in the capital. "I want to tell you that you will find a supportive shoulder and an attentive listener in us," Ashkenazi said. He stressed the need to "strengthen the bonds and understand that we must act together." But away from the serene green lawn outside the Jerusalem military offices where the ceremony was held, settlers and security personnel let their fists do the talking. A civil administration spokesman said the problem started when their field representative came to the outpost and saw the settlers had placed a caravan on a truck and were moving it from one part of Gilad Farm to another. The civil administration views the original placement of the caravan as illegal and said that moving it constituted a second violation of the law. The settlers, the spokesman said, refused to heed the representative's demand that they return the caravan to its original location. Soldiers and border policemen arrived to enforce the order. Clashes broke out in which settlers punctured the tire of a security vehicle and kicked and punched security personnel, the spokesman said. One border policeman was lightly injured and treated at Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba. One settler was arrested and two more were detained for questioning. Itai Zar, whose family created and owns the outpost, acknowledged that the settlers refused to heed the civil administration's order. But Zar, who disputes the government's claim that the outpost is illegal, said the settlers had a right to move the caravan from one end of the community to another. Security personnel violently attacked the settlers and he himself had bruises on his body from the blows, Zar said. He added that security personnel injured the settler who was arrested and the two who were detained. They also confiscated a settler-owned vehicle that had no connection to the incident, he said, adding that in the end, settlers were able to move the caravan. The civil administration said it had issued a demolition order against the caravan on Sunday. Gilad Farm is outside the Kedumim settlement. It was established in 2002, in memory of Gilad Zar, who was killed by a Palestinian sniper in May 2001 as he drove near the Yitzhar junction. It was evacuated in 2002, but it has been rebuilt since and is now home to 20 families, a yeshiva and a small factory that makes construction material. It is one of the 26 outposts erected after March 2001 that Israel promised the US it would evacuate. The outpost has been the scene of a number of clashes between settlers and security personnel, including in June, when 10 activists were detained, along with MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union). The Samaria Citizens Committee said on Sunday that "the civil administration again automatically fights Jews and tries to foment unrest without need. We hope the responsible behavior of the residents of Gilad Farm will prevent unnecessary and unpleasant situations. The civil administration acts as a provocateur, trying to ignite the area at any price." Still, in the morning, officials from the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, along with Ashkenazi and Shadmi, had toasted the good relations between the settlers and the army. Ashkenazi praised the settlers' cooperation with the military during a Rosh Hashana toast at the Central Command headquarters in the capital's Neveh Ya'acov neighborhood. He added that many settlers serve in the army. "I would like to give my blessings to [IDF] commanders as well as you [Council of Jewish Communities leaders] for your cooperation. It is clear to us that you operate in a very complex reality, sometimes stuck between a rock and a hard place." Shamni said, "The year that has passed was a good year from the aspect of security and everything relating to the life of residents of Judea and Samaria, Israelis and Palestinians." "There are many challenges in front of us that are best dealt with together," he said. Dani Dayan, who heads the Council of Jewish Communities, later told The Jerusalem Post that he saw no contradiction between the clashes at Gilad Farm and the goodwill expressed at the toast. "We always have to remember that first and foremost, the army is there to provide security to the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria, as it does for all citizens of Israel," Dayan said. In this, they do "an outstanding job." Thanks to their efforts, terrorist attacks have decreased in Judea and Samaria, he said. "Out complaints are not with the IDF, but with the government of Israel."