IDF suspends settlement security coordinator filmed aiding attack on Palestinians
Army says actions of civilian officer were ‘deviation from behavior expected from qualified security personnel’; settlers hurl stones, set fire to cars in another violent incident
Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.
The Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday suspended a settlement security coordinator who was seen on Friday aiding settlers attacking Palestinian olive harvesters, the latest in a series of violent incidents involving nationalistic Jewish youth amid rocketing West Bank tensions.
A video, taken by the Yesh Din rights group, showed Dudu Assayag, the civilian security officer wearing military gear, watching as masked youths hurl stones on a hill between Burin and the Israeli settlement of Har Bracha. The area has seen several recent clashes between settlers and Palestinians.
The footage shows a settler approaching Assayag with a tear gas grenade, which he holds onto while pointing toward the Palestinians. The settler then hurls another tear gas grenade at the group of Palestinians, before returning to take back the projectile he handed Assayag, which he later also throws.
“This act is a deviation from the behavior expected from qualified Israeli security personnel,” the IDF said in a statement.
Assayag, who is the coordinator for the Har Bracha settlement, was suspended pending a review by the chief of the IDF’s Samaria Regional Brigade, Col. Shimon Siso, the military said.
He has also been questioned by police over the incident.
חיילים ומתנחלים תוקפים יחד באדמות בורין. בתיעוד של תחקירן יש דין רואים חייל מושיט רימון גז למתנחל ומראה לו לאן להשליך אותו. בטוחה שהנהלים יחודדו @Yesh_Din pic.twitter.com/8qgY9UwHZJ
— ziv stahl (@ziv_stahl) October 21, 2022
Many settlements have security teams headed by a civilian security coordinator and composed of residents who are usually army veterans. The teams train regularly and serve as a first response unit during security incidents until the IDF or police arrive at the scene.
Har Bracha in a missive to residents on Tuesday assailed “false news reports” about “our dear” security coordinator.
“The leadership of the settlement, together with the head of the council, worked to present the full picture of the incident to senior IDF officers and police, and to demand full support for Dudu against the false news reports and the claims of the Arabs,” the missive said.
The Friday incident was among several clashes between Jewish settlers and Palestinians in the northern West Bank in recent weeks.
On Tuesday, masked Israeli settlers were seen hurling stones at a group of Palestinians harvesting olives near the West Bank town of Turmus Aya, as an Israeli soldier threw a stun grenade.
The IDF said troops arrived at the scene to separate the sides who were hurling stones at each other.
תיעוד פסיכי. רעולי פנים ירדו מהמאחז גאולת ציון, ובגיבוי צה"ל, שרפו 2 רכבים ותקפו באבנים קבוצה של גברים ונשים שמסקו זיתים באדמה פלסטינית ליד תורמוס עיא. הצבא לא עצר אותם וזרק רימוני הלם על מי שזרק אבנים על התוקפים. כל האירוע תועד בסרטון לייב, של 33 דקות. התוקפים חזרו למאחז. pic.twitter.com/RrPbEHInRy
— Yuval Abraham יובל אברהם (@yuval_abraham) October 25, 2022
The settlers also set fire to several Palestinian cars during the clash, according to the military and media reports.
Responding to the footage showing a soldier hurling a stun grenade at the Palestinian side, a military spokesperson said “security forces in the area used riot dispersal means in order to disperse the two sides.”
In a separate video clip, several of the settlers could be seen coming toward a group of Palestinians and volunteers, then throwing a rock toward them, setting off a stone-throwing skirmish as soldiers who were nearby approached.
עימותים אלימים בין יהודים לפלסטינים באזור הכפר תורמוסעיא שליד רמאללה, על רקע מסיק זיתים. בתיעוד ניתן לראות יידוי אבנים הדדי, כשקבוצה של רעולי פנים יהודים יידתה אבנים לעבר פלסטינים ומתנדבים ישראלים וזרים בנוכחות חיילים ונענתה ביידוי אבנים@nurityohanan
צילום: אוריאל אייזנר pic.twitter.com/78k2ZERohw
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) October 25, 2022
The annual olive harvest season, when Palestinians go into groves on agricultural plots to collect the fruits, often sees an uptick in clashes, especially on plots near Israeli settlements or outposts.
Left-wing Israeli groups often send volunteers to help the harvest, protect Palestinians and document crimes.
Last week, several people were wounded in the southern West Bank as settlers fought with Palestinians and Israeli activists harvesting olives.
Tensions in the Nablus area have ratcheted up in recent weeks, with Israel’s military placing a cordon around the Palestinian city to crack down on a loosely-organized terror group known as Lion’s Den, which has claimed near-nightly attacks on troops and civilians.
Early Tuesday morning, Israeli troops killed five Palestinian gunmen in the West Bank city of Nablus in a raid against Lion’s Den.
Meanwhile, there have been over 100 cases of nationalistic crimes by Israeli settlers, mostly in the northern West Bank, in the last 10 days, the Haaretz daily reported Friday.
An anonymous security source told the paper that large numbers of settlers were involved in such attacks, contradicting public statements by Israeli officials claiming that the violence was being perpetrated by a small group known to law enforcement.
The upcoming November 1 Knesset election has also been seen adding to tensions, with right-wing groups accused of attempting to create an atmosphere in which the army under Defense Minister Benny Gantz is seen as unable to control West Bank violence, the paper reported, citing security officials.
The area around Nablus is home to a number of hardline settlements, whose residents often intimidate Palestinians and vandalize their property. Settlers have also accused the military of not doing enough to protect them.
An anti-terror offensive launched earlier this year and focused on the northern West Bank has netted more than 2,000 arrests in near-nightly raids.
It has also left over 120 Palestinians dead, many of them — but not all — while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces.
The IDF’s anti-terror offensive in the West Bank was launched following a series of Palestinian attacks that killed 19 people earlier this year.
Another Israeli was killed in a suspected attack last month, and four soldiers have been killed in the West Bank in attacks and during the arrest operations.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.