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Lapid: Attacking soldiers a 'national disgrace'

‘Shameful’: Israelis assault troops, initiate clashes with Palestinians in Hebron

One soldier, two Palestinians injured by attacks in West Bank city during annual pilgrimage; military chief condemns ‘shameful and disgraceful criminal behavior’

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

Israeli security forces deploy riot dispersal means amid altercations between Israelis and Palestinians, on their way to visit the tomb of Othniel in the West Bank city of Hebron, on November 19, 2022 (HAZEM BADER / AFP)
Israeli security forces deploy riot dispersal means amid altercations between Israelis and Palestinians, on their way to visit the tomb of Othniel in the West Bank city of Hebron, on November 19, 2022 (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

Israelis clashed with Palestinians and security forces in the West Bank city of Hebron on Saturday, leaving at least three people hurt, the military said.

The clashes came as thousands of Jewish Israelis spent the weekend in the city for an annual pilgrimage tradition.

According to the Israel Defense Forces, Jewish worshipers being escorted by the army to the tomb of Othniel Ben Kenaz attacked Palestinians with stones, who also responded with stone throwing.

Ben Kenaz was the first biblical judge after Joshua, and his tomb is believed to be located in the H1 area of Hebron, which is controlled by Palestinians.

“Forces that were securing the area acted to separate the two sides and used riot dispersal means,” the IDF said.

The army said one Israeli man assaulted a female soldier with a wooden stick, lightly injuring her. Several suspects who were detained also assaulted soldiers, the IDF said, before they were handed over to police.

In a separate violent incident in Hebron, the IDF said two Palestinians were injured by stones hurled by Israelis.

The IDF said troops treated the two at the scene, before they were taken by the Palestinian Red Crescent emergency service for further treatment.

Videos published by Palestinian media outlets showed Israelis and Palestinians hurling stones at each other in the streets of Hebron.

Another clip showed an Israeli man slapping a Palestinian teenager in the street, before soldiers arrive to disperse the Palestinians, not the Israeli attackers.

The IDF in a statement said “violence of any kind, in particular against the security forces, is an intolerable criminal act that requires immediate attention and demands strict justice.”

Army chief Aviv Kohavi issued a separate statement, calling the attacks “unacceptable” and “shameful and disgraceful criminal behavior.”

“We will work for swift and strict justice,” Kohavi said.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid said attacking soldiers was a “national disgrace.”

“This is harmful to Israel’s security, it harms the values of the Israel Defense Forces and those who protect our lives, and this is a serious criminal offense. This evening I wish strength to the soldiers of the IDF who stand guarding our country. We will bring justice to the perpetrators,” Lapid said on Twitter.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz also said he “strongly condemns” the violence.

“I strongly condemn the attack against security forces and Palestinian residents by extremists in Hebron,” Gantz said on Twitter.

“I am sure that we charge the rioters, who do not represent the [rest of the] settlements, and whose conduct harms the [army’s] ability to fulfill security tasks in the area,” Gantz added.

Tor Wennesland, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, denounced the violence. “I condemn today’s violent attacks by Israeli extremists against Palestinian residents in the Old City of Hebron,” he tweeted. “Such acts may aggravate an already tense environment. All have a responsibility to act against extremists & to speak out against all acts of violence and incitement.”

On Friday night, one of MK Itamar Ben Gvir’s bodyguards was injured in an altercation with settlers in Hebron. Ben Gvir lives in the settlement of Kiryat Arba on the outskirts of Hebron.

In a separate incident in Hebron on Friday night, a large group of masked settlers threw stones at a Palestinian home near the city’s Jewish community, smashing the home’s windows and a car windshield.

The clashes came during traditional events marking the yearly Torah reading of the biblical Abraham’s purchase of the Hebron site the Tomb of the Patriarchs to bury his wife, the matriarch Sarah.

Each year, tens of thousands of Jewish worshipers visit the city — under joint Israeli-Palestinian control — for the annual pilgrimage tradition, resulting in fierce clashes and violence with local Palestinians.

On Friday morning, ahead of the Shabbat events, a Palestinian teenager was arrested with a knife near Hebron.

Israeli security forces deploy riot dispersal means amid altercations between Israelis and Palestinians, on their way to visit the tomb of Othniel in the West Bank city of Hebron, on November 19, 2022 (HAZEM BADER / AFP)

The West Bank has been on edge in the past year. This spring, the IDF launched a major anti-terror offensive mostly focused on the northern West Bank to deal with a series of Palestinian attacks that have left 29 people in Israel and the West Bank dead since the start of the year. Hebron is in the southern part of the territory.

The operation has netted more than 2,000 arrests in near-nightly raids, but has also left over 130 Palestinians dead, many of them — but not all — while carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces.

At the same time, there has been a noted rise in settler attacks against Palestinians and security forces.

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