Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would act with “zero tolerance” to bring to justice radical activists who, following demolition of illegally built structures in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, attacked and devastated an army outpost.
The incident in Yitzhar settlement, a Jewish enclave in the northern West Bank near the town of Nablus, began with authorities demolishing four illegal structures, two of which were dwellings. Their inhabitants had to be ushered out before their shelters were torn down.
The outraged settlers hailed law enforcement officers with stones and attempted to block the road with burning tires.
“They were doing everything they could in terms of preventing units from working there and at the end, it turned into a full-scale incident,” said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld as quoted by AP.
The eruption of violence from Jewish settlers became one of the worst in years, as law enforcement had to disperse the rioters using non-lethal crowd control measures. Six Border Police officers were injured by the stones during the crackdown on protesters, two of them were hospitalized. No arrests were made.
But that was not the end, as settlers retreated in one place, but launched an assault in another one.
A group of approximately 50-60 activists attacked an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) post deployed near the settlement for protection against possible aggressive moves of the Palestinians.
The IDF played absolutely no role in the court-ordered demolition of four buildings at Yitzhar settlement, which was executed by the Border Police and local law enforcement, but that didn’t stop the rioters.
The settlers damaged power generators and spilled diesel fuel from tanks, disabled heaters, slashed tents and inflicted damage to other army equipment.
Six soldiers who drew duty at the post did not interfere because they were deployed there for protection of settlements, not the command post itself.
“They are trained to protect them [the settlers], not to confront them," a security source said. “The soldiers are not ready to take on a group of 50 to 60 Yitzhar residents, the very people they were sent to defend,” the source said as quoted by the Jerusalem Post.
Netanyahu said on Tuesday that Israel would act with “zero tolerance” towards the settler outlaws, called the assault on police and the IDF “reprehensible” and ordered defense chiefs to “act with all due force” to straighten up the pro-settler activists.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon promised to make radical elements understand that violating the rule of law would bring dear consequences for them.
“We won't allow them to lift a hand against the IDF, the Border Police, the Israel Police, and the Civil Administration,” the minister warned. “They will have to obey the law like every Israeli citizen, and we will deal with violent activities with full severity, until they stop and understand that on does not lift a hand against the law,” Ya'alon stated.
Former Israeli general Gadi Shamni, who served as commander over the West Bank and knows the situation on the ground, said told national Channel 2 that Israeli authorities lack political will to give settler violence a proper treatment.
“They call it terror, but they don't fight against it as we know how to fight against terror,” he said.
The emergency situation in Yitzhar settlement has been looming for some time already as suspected settlers slashed the tires of cars belonging to military personnel visiting Yitzhar twice this week.
The first incident with IDF vehicles took place on Sunday, when the tires of an army jeep belonging to Samaria Brigade Commander Col. Yoav Yarom were punctured. Just hours before the demolition at Yitzhar settlement tyres of another IDF jeep were slashed.
The IDF condemned the latest incident as “crossing a red line.”
“The IDF takes a grave view of any harm caused to army commanders and soldiers, conscripts or reserves, who work day and night to defend the residents of the state of Israel,” the IDF Spokesman Unit said.
As a rule, Israeli officials do not prosecute Jewish settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories for vandalism or assaulting the local Palestinians, Lebanon’s Daily Star maintains.
According to Ma’an news agency, Israel is reluctant to grant Palestinians with permits to build in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Since Israel captured the West Bank territory in the 1967 War, it has authorized the construction of over 120 settlements, whereas the number of unauthorized Israeli outposts has exceeded 100.
Over the same period Israel has demolished at least 27,000 Palestinian homes and structures, reported the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in 2013 alone Israel destroyed 663 Palestinian properties in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, displacing 1,101 people. Some 241 more people have been displaced since the beginning of 2014.