Labor chief demands Knesset discuss settler ‘terror’ against troops in Yitzhar

Amir Peretz says repeated attacks by Jewish extremists must be ‘nipped in the bud,’ calling the response by Netanyahu and the government ‘weak’

Labor chief Amir Peretz at the opening of the party's new election headquarters in Tel Aviv, on July 24, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Labor chief Amir Peretz at the opening of the party's new election headquarters in Tel Aviv, on July 24, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Labor-Gesher leader Amir Peretz on Monday demanded a powerful Knesset committee convene to address a Saturday night attack on soldiers by settlers, calling it “terror in the full sense of the word.”

Peretz issued a letter to Gabi Ashkenazi (Blue and White), head of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, in which he said “repeated incidents” of settler violence should be regarded as terrorism. “They should be dealt with accordingly and be nipped at the bud, without compromise.”

Though Peretz said police and the military were reacting appropriately to the violence, this “is not enough in light of the weakness shown by the government and its head” in dealing with such incidents. He demanded the committee convene to urgently review the developments.

The Labor party also said activists would demonstrate in support of the IDF and against “Jewish terror” outside army headquarters in Tel Aviv on Monday night.

In clashes Saturday overnight, the army said a soldier was lightly injured by rock-throwing near the northern West Bank community of Yitzhar. The riots involved some 30 settlers who hurled stones at troops and punctured tires of military vehicles, according to the IDF.

A military jeep is damaged in riots by settlers near the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar on October 20, 2019 (Courtesy)

Soldiers responded with riot dispersal means and firing their guns in the air. No arrests were announced.

The violence against the soldiers was criticized by politicians from across the spectrum and by IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi.

The incident followed several other recent instances of violence and threats by settlers, including from Yitzhar, against soldiers, Palestinians and left-wing activists.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement strongly condemned “any attack on IDF soldiers” and said “there will be no tolerance toward the lawbreakers who raise a hand against our soldiers.”

On Sunday residents of Yitzhar rallied in a show of support for troops, while some demonstrated in favor of the so-called “hilltop youth” linked to attacks.

Yitzhar residents protest in support of IDF soldiers at the entrance to the Samaria Brigade, October 20, 2019, following an attack on Israeli soldiers near the northern West Bank settlement overnight. The sign reads: ‘IDF soldiers are our brothers.’ (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz called the incident “severe,” saying he trusted law enforcement would “take care of it with all the tools at their disposal.”

Jewish Home party leader Rafi Peretz issued a statement saying that hurting IDF soldiers “crosses a red line” and calling the incident “shocking.”

Michael Bachner and Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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