IDF, Bat Ayin residents trade accusations after violence

Arrest of suspected criminals draws violent response from settlement’s youth, leading to soldier firing in air

View of the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin (photo credit: Gershon Elinson/Flash90)
View of the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin (photo credit: Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Residents of the Bat Ayin settlement in the Etzion bloc south of Jerusalem accused the IDF and police of “provoking” a violent altercation with local youth Sunday that ended with a soldier firing in the air to ward off the demonstrators.

Police detectives had entered the settlement, known for its residents’ extremist ideology, at 11 a.m. to arrest two residents suspected of “nationalist crimes,” a category that includes the recurring attacks on Palestinian villages and orchards known as “price tag” attacks.

When the police cruiser tried to leave with the suspects in custody, its path was blocked by some 20 local youth who shouted epithets and threw stones.

As the altercation grew heated, the police called for IDF reinforcements. Surrounded by the stone-throwing youth, one soldier in the responding force fired warning shots in the air, leading the protestors to disperse. The security forces left with the suspects in hand.

Shlomi Michael, who commands the Judea and Samaria District Police, ordered the district’s Nationalist Crimes Unit to “act swiftly and with zero tolerance against the law-breakers who attacked security forces this morning.”

In a statement, the IDF said “the army views with severity these sorts of incidents, which are not only illegal, but distract the forces from their primary mission – ensuring the security of the area.”

But one resident, speaking anonymously to the NRG news site, charged that it was the security forces who had instigated the violence.

“Entering [the settlement] with so many forces, such a massive and provocative force was unnecessary,” the resident said. “This is what sparked anger in those youth. The act of firing into the air was extremely unreasonable. It doesn’t appear as though there was any coordination or thought here…it looks like it was all done with complete stupidity.”

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