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IDF officer attacked by Jewish settlers near Hebron

Police say army liaison assaulted by Havat Gal residents when he came to inspect suspected illegal construction

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Border Policemen on guard after Jewish settlers were evacuated from two homes in the heart of the West Bank city of Hebron on January 22, 2016. (AFP/Hazem Bader)
Border Policemen on guard after Jewish settlers were evacuated from two homes in the heart of the West Bank city of Hebron on January 22, 2016. (AFP/Hazem Bader)

A group of Jewish settlers on Sunday attacked an Israel Defense Forces officer in the Hebron-area outpost of Havat Gal, police said.

The liaison officer serving in Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) had arrived in the area to inspect reports of illegal construction when “several youths” from the community shoved him, according to police.

The officer lodged an official complaint with police, who came to Havat Gal later on Sunday to search for the perpetrators.

The only shared city in the West Bank, Hebron has for decades seen almost daily friction between its community of several hundred Jewish settlers and its much larger Palestinian population.

In January, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon sparked a minor political crisis when he ordered the evacuation of several dozen Jewish settlers from two Hebron homes that he said were illegally obtained from their Palestinian owners.

Lawmakers from the right-wing Jewish Home and Likud parties, including senior cabinet ministers, subsequently leveled harsh criticism against Ya’alon over the decision to remove the settlers. During the evacuation, Palestinian residents of Hebron attempted to enter the buildings and a clash broke out between the Jewish settlers and their Arab neighbors, the IDF said at the time.

The city — home of the Tomb of the Patriarchs revered by both Jews and Muslims — is populated by some 200,000 Palestinian residents with approximately 500 Israeli settlers living in the center, protected by an army-patrolled buffer zone. The situation is a constant source of tension, and the area has been a focal point of Israeli-Palestinian violence during the recent months of unrest.

From October 2015 to the end of March, 29 Israelis and four others were killed in a spate of Palestinian terror attacks, many of them in the Hebron area. Around 190 Palestinians were also killed, some two-thirds of them while carrying out assaults and the rest during clashes with Israeli forces, according to Israeli officials.

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