IDF: Settlers attack troops, block chase of suspects who torched Palestinian car

Military says soldiers physically assaulted by group near Urif in northern West Bank, some tried to break into army vehicle

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Settlers confront soldiers near the West Bank village of Urif, February 15, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter)
Settlers confront soldiers near the West Bank village of Urif, February 15, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter)

The Israel Defense Forces said troops were physically and verbally assaulted by a group of settlers near the West Bank village of Urif on Wednesday.

In a statement Thursday, the military said the incident began after troops spotted a Palestinian-owned car being set on fire in the area, close to the hardline Yitzhar settlement, and began a pursuit after the suspects.

An Israeli-owned vehicle in the area “drove wildly toward the forces” and Israeli civilians blocked IDF vehicles who were chasing the arson suspects, pushed the soldiers, and tried to break into a military vehicle, the IDF said.

It was not clear if the suspects who attacked the soldiers were also behind the alleged arson.

The suspects were not immediately detained.

Footage from the incident showed a group of settlers confronting the soldiers in the area.

The IDF said it “condemns any act of violence toward soldiers and security forces.”

“Security forces will continue to work to maintain security, law, and order in [the West Bank], and will work to prevent violence and harm to citizens and residents,” the IDF added.

A complaint was filed with police, which launched an investigation into the incident.

No soldiers were reported to have been wounded.

Footage published by Palestinian media on Wednesday showed the burning car allegedly targeted by settlers.

Incidents of vandalism against Palestinians and Israeli security forces are commonly referred to as “price tag” attacks, with perpetrators claiming they are retaliation for Palestinian violence or government policies seen as hostile to the settler movement.

Arrests of perpetrators are rare and rights groups lament that convictions are even more unusual, with the majority of charges in such cases being dropped.

Reports of nationalist crimes against Palestinians in the West Bank surged in recent weeks, following several terror attacks.

Last year, there were several incidents of settlers assaulting soldiers who tried to prevent them from attacking Palestinians.

Wednesday’s incident came at a time of rising violence in the region, with the Israeli military pressing on with an anti-terror offensive in the West Bank which has netted more than 2,500 arrests, left 171 Palestinians dead in 2022, and another 48 since the beginning of the year.

Many of them were killed while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces, though some were uninvolved civilians.

The operation was launched to deal with a series of attacks that left 31 people in Israel dead in 2022, and 11 more since the beginning of this year.

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