Two settlers allegedly attacked IDF soldiers and a Palestinian man with a club and pepper spray at the entrance to the settlement of Bay Ayin Thursday, prompting the army to withdraw troops that have been protecting the community.
According to the army’s account, the incident began when a Palestinian man driving a truck arrived at the front gate of the settlement to deliver supplies. While he was waiting for permission to enter, two masked youths, apparently members of the community, attacked him with a club.
Two IDF soldiers guarding the gate ran to aid the Palestinian, but the assailants attacked them with pepper spray before running off and hiding inside the settlement. The driver and the soldiers were lightly hurt.
In response, the army decided to order the five soldiers on guard duty in Bay Ayin to pull out. “The IDF considers this a grave incident and expects the legal authorities to bring the attackers to justice,” the army said in a statement.
A spokesman for Bat Ayin said the community condemned the attack and was embarrassed by the incident.
The settlement is home to a staunchly nationalistic community that, as a policy, does not allow Arabs through its gates. Residents have been involved in a number of attacks on Palestinians and their property in the past.
In July police arrested two men from Bay Ayin after they set fire to a sunflower field, believing it to be the property of a Palestinian when in fact it belonged to a Jewish resident of Hebron. In May, four youths from the community were arrested and charged with throwing rocks at Palestinian vehicles.
Last August, three youths from the settlement, aged 12 and 13, were arrested and charged with firebombing a Palestinian taxi. The incident drew condemnation from the highest levels of government in both Israel and the US.