Police nab 5 more suspects in Yitzhar settler attack

Police nab 5 more suspects in Yitzhar settler attack

IDF to prevent planned Passover excursion to former settlement of Homesh, citing violent incidents and dearth of manpower

Lazar Berman is a former breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

An IDF outpost destroyed by settlers in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, April 2014. (screen capture: Channel 2)
An IDF outpost destroyed by settlers in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, April 2014. (screen capture: Channel 2)

Security forces early Thursday morning arrested five residents of the Yitzhar settlement on suspicion of involvement in Tuesday’s attack on an IDF encampment and destruction of army property.

Two of the suspects were teenagers between the ages of 16 and 18-years-old, Channel 10 reported. The other three were 23, 28, and 29 years old. According to Israel Radio, Israeli authorities were expected to make additional arrests in the coming days.

After their arrests in a joint operation by Israel Police and Border Police forces, the five suspects were taken in for questioning. A hearing over the extension of their detention was scheduled for later Thursday.

Two other suspects were arrested Wednesday, one from Yitzhar and the other from the settlement of Havat Gilad.

In addition, the IDF announced Thursday that it would not allow a planned excursion during the Passover holiday to the site of Homesh, a settlement evacuated during the 2005 disengagement, according to Israel Radio. The army cited a manpower concerns, and the spike in the number of clashes between security forces and extremist settlers.

The Samaria Regional Council said that the IDF was punishing all settlers for the actions of a tiny group of hooligans.

The incident at Yitzhar came after three days of increasingly violent confrontations between residents of the settlement and security forces that culminated early Tuesday morning with residents raiding an IDF command post near the settlement after security forces pulled down a number of illegal buildings.

Army reservists stationed in the settlement failed to turn back a rioting mob of dozens of settlers, who demolished their post and equipment in a violent predawn incident.

The settlers were protesting the demolition of five illegal buildings in the West Bank community overnight. The attack began just after the five structures were demolished by soldiers and policemen, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said.

Some 50 Jewish rioters then attacked the military headquarters in the settlement in an attempt to tear the structure down. They also hurled stones, burned tires and slashed tires on vehicles, police said.

According to a military source, during the melee, the settlers threatened the soldiers, all reservists, telling them to stand aside to avoid getting hurt. They then began to destroy army property in the settlement.

Eight people, including six border guards, were injured. All of the military equipment at the site was destroyed, including tents, heating equipment, a toilet, and a water tank.

Police responded with “riot dispersal means,” injuring two settlers, Samri said. Eight people were arrested.

MK Elazar Stern (Hatnua), a member of the Knesset Legislation Committee, told Channel 10 in an interview on Wednesday that the Yitzhar settlement should be treated no differently to any other community that supports terror activities.

“That means at the entrance there should be checkpoints, and anybody who goes in should be checked,” he said. “And if there is a need to carry out searches in the middle of the night then they should do that.”

Stern added that the legislation committee was in the process of working on a legal definition of terror and that the activities in Yitzhar fell within that classification.

“I’m telling you, it’s terror,” he asserted.

Tuesday morning’s incident came hours after an IDF vehicle parked in the settlement had its tires slashed, in what is thought to be an act of Jewish nationalist extremists.

On Sunday, in another attack by extremist settlers at Yitzhar, tires on a car of the Israel Defense Force’s regional commander were punctured for the second time in months.

Stuart Winer and Yifa Yaakov contributed to this report.

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