Far-right extremist settlers injure cop in clash at flashpoint West Bank outpost

Dozens of masked so-called ‘hilltop youth’ attack officers during demolition of illegal structures near Yitzhar; rights group: Settlers in area also threw stones at Palestinians

Border police officers during operations to demolish illegal structures at Shevach Ha'aretz outpost in West Bank, August 12, 2020 (Israel Police)
Border police officers during operations to demolish illegal structures at Shevach Ha'aretz outpost in West Bank, August 12, 2020 (Israel Police)

A Border Police officer was lightly injured in clashes with a group of ultra-nationalist “hilltop youth” settlers during the demolition of illegal structures at an outpost in the northern West Bank on Wednesday.

Meanwhile a rights group said settlers in the area also threw stones at Palestinians in two separate incidents on Tuesday.

On Wednesday dozens of settlers, with their faces covered, threw rocks at police officers who had arrived to clear the Shevach Haaretz outpost near the flashpoint Yitzhar settlement.

Rioters also hurled paint bottles at police officers, hitting a number of them, and punctured the tires on several vehicles, police said in a statement.

Channel 13 news reported that rioters also used pepper spray against the police officers.

Border police vehicle vandalized during operations to demolish illegal structures at Shevach Ha’aretz outpost in West Bank, August 12, 2020 (Israel Police)

Law enforcement officers said they dispersed the demonstrators with the aid of additional forces who rushed to the scene, before completing the demolition.

“This is a serious incident of violence against the officers who this morning worked with the Civil Administration to demolish three illegally erected wooden structures in the Shevach Haaretz outpost near Yitzhar,” police said in a statement.

There was no mention of any arrests.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid commented on the attack, tweeting that “Jews who attack and injure IDF fighters are terrorists. I expect security forces to find these Jewish terrorists and send them to prison.”

The right-wing Honenu legal aid organization said there was a family with small children and a baby living in one of the structures.

MK Yair Lapid speaks at the Maariv newspaper conference in Herzliya, on February 26, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“Neighbors and friends who came to help us were violently attacked by the police,” the mother told Channel 13 news. “The police presented me with no demolition order or any other order, and without explanation, cleared us from the house. After a few hours they destroyed it.”

Settlers in the area of Yizhar also allegedly threw stones at Palestinians in two separate incidents on Tuesday, according to the human rights organization B’Tselem.

In the afternoon, four armed settlers threw stones at Palestinians while they were on their land in the village of Hawara, eyewitnesses told B’Tselem. One was wounded and required medical treatment.

Later than night, six settlers threw stones at a passing car in which a Palestinian family — two parents and their son — were traveling.

Last month two police officers were injured when they were attacked as some 30 Israeli teens arrived at the Kumi Ori outpost just outside Yitzhar in order to rebuild a home that security forces demolished last April.

Officers were dispatched to the area to enforce a longstanding closed military zone. The rioters sought to prevent the border police from reaching the outpost, establishing makeshift road blocks with burnt tires, and throwing objects at the troops, law enforcement said.

When the officers arrived at the wooden cabin being rebuilt by the far-right activists, they encountered further violence, which included punches and the use of pepper spray against them, the Border Police statement said, adding that two officers suffered mild injuries as a result and were taken from the area to receive medical treatment.

After overpowering the rioters, the police took down the building that was being established and took one of the activists into custody — Neria Zarog, a resident of Kumi Ori whose home the group of young extremists were trying to rebuild.

Zarog is a known figure to security forces and has inspired attacks against Palestinians and Israeli forces alike, according to a security official who spoke to The Times of Israel last year. He rebuilt his home almost immediately after it was razed for its lack of permits in January and was arrested when it was again razed in April.

A closed military zone was put in place in Kumi Ori last October following a string of violent attacks on Palestinians and security forces perpetrated by a number of young settlers from the area.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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