The young men from Kiryat Arba exact their 'price' in the valley

Eyewitness: By late afternoon, the sky above the valley was black with smoke, flames raged and young men continued to pour in.

masked settlers 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
masked settlers 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
As security personnel swarmed into Hebron's Beit Hashalom on Thursday afternoon, Jewish youths from nearby Kiryat Arba launched a counterattack - breaking down a metal fence in front of the Nir Yeshiva and going down into the valley between them and the evacuation, lighting fires, stoning Palestinian homes, knocking down satellite dishes and torching olive trees. Making good on their "price tag" policy - exacting a price in Palestinian property whenever security forces evacuate Jewish homes - the teens ran through the valley with their faces covered by T-shirts and masks, causing as much damage as possible in the shortest amount of time. The Palestinians responded by coming out of their homes and throwing rocks back at the youths. Soldiers, busy with the evacuation on the other side of the valley, were slow to respond. As the violence continued, a man from Kiryat Arba, armed with an M-16 rifle, entered the valley and opened fire on the Palestinians with rubber bullets, wounding three of them. Two of the wounded, an elderly man and his son, were taken into a nearby Palestinian home, where they waited for medical attention. The third victim was unaccounted for by press time. Palestinians said that 14 people had been wounded by settlers since the evacuation began, and that at least 15 cars were torched near the disputed structure. Majde Jabari, a local Palestinian who received the wounded in his home, said the teens' counterstrike had been planned in advance. "They cut that fence down 10 days ago," he told The Jerusalem Post, his eyes bloodshot from the tear gas police had fired at settlers near Beit Hashalom. "They were planning this from the beginning." Jabari said he was confused as to why the man had fired his weapon. "Why?" he asked, gesturing at the two bleeding men sprawled on his living room floor. "What did these men do to deserve this?" Within an hour, the two were evacuated by an IDF medical response unit to a Hebron hospital, where they were listed in stable condition. As the evacuation continued, bands of young Jews came down from Kiryat Arba, throwing rocks and starting fires outside Palestinian homes. The loud booms of stun grenades rattled the valley, serving as a constant reminder of the operation unfolding at Beit Hashalom, and bullets - their source and caliber unclear - sporadically whizzed by. By late afternoon, the sky above the valley was black with smoke, flames raged and young men from Kiryat Arba continued to pour in, damaging Palestinian property before racing back up the hill when security personnel arrived. The Palestinians became more and more angry; soldiers prevented them from responding to the violence, drawing their weapons whenever the Arabs drew near. As the sun began to set, shouts of Allah Akbar echoed through the valley as men with keffiyeh-covered faces assembled and ran toward a burning home. Young boys, whose mothers had long since locked them inside their homes, peered through barred windows and cheered their elders on. The young men from Kiryat Arba were still vandalizing at least one home, setting drying laundry alight and tearing down a large black tarp that had covered the front porch. By dusk, stun grenades could be seen exploding near the Nir Yeshiva, as the army and police tried to quell the unrest. "It looks like Gaza," said a soldier from the Givati Infantry Brigade who watched the grenades explode from the bottom of the valley. "We were just there," he said. "And let me tell you, this is what it's like." Soon, sporadic gunfire could be heard, prompting the soldiers to lock and load once again. "That sounded like a Kalashnikov," their commander said. "Keep your eyes open for revenge attacks." With nightfall, the fires began to die out, and Beit Hashalom sat eerily quiet above the valley as the distant flash of sirens lit the sky. Fists and batons flew wildly as groups of teenagers continued to scuffle with police near the entrance to Kiryat Arba. "I think all parties are acting unreasonably here," said one girl, a Magen David Adom paramedic who lives nearby. "It's really just a shame all around."