Residents of the hard-line settlement of Yitzhar clashed with Israeli security forces as several illegal buildings in the West Bank community were demolished before dawn Tuesday.
The incident came hours after an IDF vehicle parked in the settlement had its tires slashed, thought to be an act of Jewish nationalist extremists. On Sunday, tires on a car of the Israel Defense Force’s regional commander were punctured, drawing harsh condemnations from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and other officials, who vowed to fight Jewish extremism.
Security forces pulled down a number of buildings in the early stages of their construction, as well as two mobile homes, according to an Israel Radio report.
Hundreds of settlers responded by hurling rocks, setting tires alight, blocking roads, slashing tires of Border Police vehicles and attacking a nearby IDF post, the army said in a statement.
The protesters also destroyed a portable toilet and a tent being used by the soldiers, according to a report by Channel 10 news.
The army said it responded with crowd dispersion measures. According to a Yitzhar spokesperson, troops fired tear gas at the protesters and several needed medical attention.
Six Border Police officers were lightly injured in the clashes.
There were eight arrests, the army said. “We view seriously the attack on our security forces, who came out to do their work and enforce law and order,” the army said in a statement.
Samaria Regional Council Head Gershon Mesika called the home demolitions a “price tag” raid by security forces, referencing attacks normally carried out by Jewish extremists against Palestinians as revenge for actions by Israeli forces.
“Instead of doing its job and finding those that are guilty, the security apparatus is hurting the innocent, thus strengthening the extremists and weakening the large majority of Yitzhar residents,” said Mesika.
A video from the scene posted by the Tazpit news agency showed a bulldozer surrounded by a heavy police presence in riot gear.
Yitzhar, a settlement of some 200 families nestled deep in Samarian hill country south of Nablus, is known for being home to a number of Jewish extremists, and for frequent clashes with local Palestinians and, at times, with Israeli forces.
On Sunday, a settlement spokesperson tied the tire slashing attack on regional commander Col. Yoav Yarom, the second in three months, to the recent demolition of a home there.
“We cannot ignore the significant proximity to the criminal destruction of the Lazar family’s home, and the subsequent uproar,” he said. “Across from the commander’s airless tires stands a house, destroyed and ruined,” he added.
A teen from the settlement was arrested in Jerusalem Monday in connection with the tire slashing.