Armed off-duty soldiers enter Palestinian town, retrieved by IDF
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Armed off-duty soldiers enter Palestinian town, retrieved by IDF

Residents hand over two servicemen unharmed; military investigating why they entered Qusra, in northern West Bank

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Illustrative image of Israeli soldiers in the West Bank village of Qusra near the city of Nablus, on August 9, 2016. (Flash90)
Illustrative image of Israeli soldiers in the West Bank village of Qusra near the city of Nablus, on August 9, 2016. (Flash90)

Two armed off-duty soldiers entered a Palestinian village in the northern West Bank and were detained by local residents before being handed over to the military on Friday morning, officials said.

The military said it was investigating why the soldiers, who were on leave, went to Qusra, east of Ariel.

The two soldiers entered the village by foot, armed with their service weapons. They were detained by local residents and handed over to the Israel Defense Forces, according to the Palestinian Wafa news agency.

The town’s mayor oversaw the peaceful transfer, Wafa said.

“There were no out-of-the-ordinary incidents,” the IDF said.

A similar incident occurred in Qusra in January, when a group of four Israelis, including three off-duty soldiers, drove into the village.

In that case, local residents set upon the Israelis, throwing rocks at them, the army said at the time. In response, the armed Israelis fired shots into the air.

The mayor of the village, Abdul Azeem al-Wadi, along with an activist from the Rabbis for Human Rights organization, stepped in to rescue and detain the four settlers — who apparently came from the nearby Esh Kodesh outpost — for their own safety, according to Rabbis for Human Rights.

The soldiers received light punishment from their commanders, the army said.

Meir Ettinger, wearing a white skullcap, is escorted by IDF soldiers out of the West Bank village of Qusra, January 7, 2014. (Rabbis for Human Rights)
Meir Ettinger, wearing a white skullcap, is escorted by IDF soldiers out of the West Bank village of Qusra, January 7, 2014. (Rabbis for Human Rights)

Qusra has previously seen clashes between Israeli settlers and local residents.

In 2014, a group of settlers from the Esh Kodesh outpost — led by extremist leader Meir Ettinger — were captured by Palestinians while they were allegedly en route to carry out acts of vandalism and violence in the village, in what’s often referred to as “price tag” attacks.

The group had allegedly attempted to carry out such attacks in protest over the IDF Civil Administration’s uprooting earlier in the day of a settler olive grove near Esh Kodesh.

They reportedly clashed with the Palestinian village’s residents, before being captured. Some of the settlers were apparently beaten by their captors. After several hours, the settlers were handed over to the IDF.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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