Border Police attacked in Yitzhar settlement while searching home of ‘price tag’ suspect

Residents of West Bank settlement throw stones at police investigating torching of mosque.

Border Police at Yitzhar, April 11, 2014. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN'S OFFICE)
Border Police at Yitzhar, April 11, 2014.
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN'S OFFICE)
Settlers threw rocks at police as they searched the home of a “price tag” suspect in the West Bank community of Yitzhar late Saturday night and early Sunday morning, Judea and Samaria police said.
Hours later police returned and arrested two people from Yitzhar in connection with the attack, one of whom is also under investigation by the anti-nationalist crime unit for involvement in past incidents.
The latest cycle of event in the hilltop community began around midnight. A group of officers from the anti-nationalist crimes unit of the Israel Police – the unit that probes “price tag” attacks – came to Yitzhar to search the home of a couple arrested last week on suspicion of being involved in the attempted torching of a mosque in Umm al-Fahm last month.
While police were in the house, border policemen outside the residence were attacked by Yitzhar settlers, who threw rocks at them and cursed them, the spokesman said. Someone also punctured the tires of one of the police vehicles, the spokesman added.
None of the officers was hurt in the incident and police said they were able to finish the search as planned despite the disturbance, the spokesman said.
Last week, police arrested two couples from Yitzhar in connection with the Umm al-Fahm mosque attack. On Friday police released two of the women and one of the men without filing charges.
Police continue to hold one man from last week’s arrests, as they investigate the possibility that his vehicle was used in the mosque attack or at the very least present in Umm al-Fahm when the incident occurred. It was this man’s home that police searched late Saturday night and early Sunday morning.
Police also questioned his wife for a number of hours on Sunday and then released her.
The man’s attorney, Itamar Ben-Gvir, said that his client is innocent and that the arrest was purely a publicity stunt.
Yitzhar spokesman Ezri Tovi said that police continued to level false accusations against his community. No one threw stones at the security forces while they were in Yitzhar late Saturday night and early Sunday morning, Tovi said. But he did concede that the tires of a police vehicle had been punctured during that time.
He charged that the security forces entered Yitzhar around midnight and spent an hour there, just to confiscate a computer. There were children in the house when the police entered, he said, noting that these were the same children who only days ago had witnessed their parents arrest.
“Why couldn’t the police have entered the home in the middle of the day when the children were in school?” he asked.
“It raises the possibility that this was simply an act of needless provocation,” Tovi said.
He charged that the police continued to exact revenge against the entire settlement of Yitzhar.
The violence follows a community- wide vote affirming that Yitzhar opposes physical attacks against IDF or Border Police personnel, including against their property.
Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh over the weekend also called for a halt to such attacks, even though he blamed the security forces and government policy for inciting the 1,172 member community in the Samaria region of the West Bank.
Tovi said it is unclear what the community’s response would now be to the punctured tires on the police vehicle.
His community made headlines last month after a Jewish extremist slashed the tires of an IDF jeep while it was parked in Yitzhar. The incident sparked a series of back and forth attacks in which security forces demolished four unauthorized structures in the settlement. They were attacked by settlers and extremists, leading to clashes that involved tear gas in which six officers were lightly injured.
In the aftermath of that attack, a group of settlers and extremists destroyed an army post in Yitzhar that housed reservists guarding the settlement.
Separately, the tires of another IDF jeep were slashed, after which the IDF the commandeered Yitzhar’s Od Yosef Chai yeshiva to house a battalion of Border Police. The yeshiva is now holding classes in its dorms.