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Ben Gvir’s bodyguard injured during scuffle with fellow settlers in Hebron

Far-right lawmaker’s guards get into altercation during pilgrimage events in West Bank city; seperately, settlers throw stones at Palestinian home nearby

File: Head of the Otzma Yehudit party MK Itamar Ben Gvir at a ceremony honoring late Jewish extremist leader Rabbi Meir Kahane in Jerusalem on November 10, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
File: Head of the Otzma Yehudit party MK Itamar Ben Gvir at a ceremony honoring late Jewish extremist leader Rabbi Meir Kahane in Jerusalem on November 10, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

One of MK Itamar Ben Gvir’s bodyguards was injured in an altercation with settlers in Hebron on Friday night, as thousands of Jewish Israelis spent the weekend in the city for an annual pilgrimage tradition.

The far-right lawmakers’ bodyguards scuffled with settlers during a nighttime Shabbat event in the West Bank city.

The wounded guard was sent to a hospital for medical treatment. There was no immediate information about his condition.

Channel 12 reported that the fight broke out as attendees were drinking alcohol, and after verbal sparring between the two groups.

The brawl happened during traditional events marking the yearly Torah reading of the biblical Abraham’s purchase of the Hebron site the Tomb of the Patriarchs to bury his wife, the matriarch Sarah.

Thousands of Jewish Israelis spend Shabbat in Hebron to visit the site during the events. Hebron, uniquely, is under shared Israeli-Palestinian control, with the Palestinian Authority responsible for some 80% of the city, and Israel the other 20%, where hundreds of Jewish settlers live in several enclaves.

Police and Border Police maintain a heavy presence in the city during the weekend and block some streets to traffic.

Ben Gvir lives in the settlement of Kiryat Arba on the outskirts of Hebron.

Religious Jews seen during celebrations at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron, West Bank, for the Hayei Sarah (Life of Sarah) Shabbat celebration on November 10, 2017. (Mendy Hechtman/Flash90)

In a separate incident in Hebron on Friday night, a large group of masked settlers threw stones at a Palestinian home near the city’s Jewish community. The attackers smashed the home’s windows and a car windshield, according to the Yesh Din rights group.

The left-wing group noted that Ben Gvir was in the area at the time.

A group of settlers returned to the house later Friday night. A large number of soldiers and police arrived at the scene to disperse the settlers, but did not make arrests, Yesh Din said.

Yesh Din released video it said showed the settlers approaching the house and throwing stones.

On Friday morning, a Palestinian teenager was arrested with a knife near Hebron.

Ben Gvir leads the hardline Otzma Yehudit party, which is part of the far-right Religious Zionism alliance led by Bezalel Smotrich.

Ben Gvir has a history of inciting violence and stoking racial tensions, and has pulled his personal handgun in at least two previous altercations in the past year.

His party has ties to extremist groups and Jewish terrorists, according to recent reports.

He has been criticized by some opponents further to his right, though, including at a memorial last week for the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the racist Kach party.

Ben Gvir was booed at that event for saying that although he admired the extremist leader, he would not advance legislation that would expel all Arabs from Israel and the West Bank or create a regime of ethnic segregation, as Kahane advocated. Radical settler youth activists were prominent members of the audience at the event.

Two ultranationalists and former allies of Ben Gvir are reportedly planning to found a new political party to outflank him to his right, and have criticized him for being “ideologically flexible.”

The West Bank has been on edge in the past year. This spring, the IDF launched a major anti-terror offensive mostly focused on the northern West Bank to deal with a series of Palestinian attacks that have left 29 people in Israel and the West Bank dead since the start of the year. Hebron is in the southern part of the territory.

The operation has netted more than 2,000 arrests in near-nightly raids, but has also left over 130 Palestinians dead, many of them — but not all — while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces.

In recent months, Palestinian gunmen have repeatedly targeted troops operating in the West Bank, as well as military posts, troops operating along the West Bank security barrier, Israeli settlements and civilians on the roads.

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