Netanyahu, Gantz condemn settler violence against IDF soldiers
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No suspects arrested after violent West Bank clashes

Netanyahu, Gantz condemn settler violence against IDF soldiers

Politicians left and right, NGOs decry riot near Yitzhar; PM says there will be ‘no tolerance toward lawbreakers’

Illustrative: Residents of the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar clash with security forces during a demolition of an illegal structure on June 25, 2017. (Screen capture: YouTube)
Illustrative: Residents of the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar clash with security forces during a demolition of an illegal structure on June 25, 2017. (Screen capture: YouTube)

A violent clash between settlers and Israel Defense Forces troops in which a soldier was injured elicited unanimous condemnation Sunday morning, as the prime minister and politicians from both sides of the aisle all denounced the violence that occurred the previous night.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement praised the IDF troops “who work night and day to protect the safety of all Israeli citizens, without exception.”

“I strongly condemn any attack on IDF soldiers,” added Netanyahu, who is also defense minister. “There will be no tolerance toward the lawbreakers who raise a hand against our soldiers.”

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

The army responded by using riot dispersal means and firing their guns in the air.  No arrests have been made.

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

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

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.”

“As a former IDF chief of staff and as a commander for decades I would like to send a message to all the soldiers and commanders protecting us, including on the eve of the [Simchat Torah] festival: The Israeli nation supports you. We will not sit idly by as IDF soldiers are being harmed.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center) watches a Golani Brigade exercise alongside then-IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz in the Golan Heights on September 11, 2012. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Another party chief who condemned the incident was Amir Peretz of the left-wing Labor-Gesher party, who called for “uncompromising and comprehensive action to arrest the Jewish terrorists.”

“This is not a lone incident, it is a repeated ritual in which a violent and uncontrolled group employs terror against the very soldiers whose task is to protect them,” Peretz added, accusing Netanyahu of “completely surrendering to the extremist elements trying to ignite the region” and failing to take adequate action against those responsible.

Left-wing NGOs similarly condemned the incident, linking it to other recent incidents of alleged settler violence toward human rights activists and Palestinians.

“When you ignore daily violence against Palestinians and human rights activists, you wake up with assaults on soldiers,” Peace Now said. “In the settlement of Yitzhar operates a violent and dangerous terror gang that has to be dismantled.” It rejected claims by settler leaders that those responsible were just a “handful” of people.

Rabbis for Human Rights activist Moshe Yehudai, who the NGO says was assaulted by a group of masked settlers in the northern West Bank on October 16, 2019. (Rabbis for Human Rights)

Rabbis for Human Rights linked the incident to one last week in which one of its members, 80-year-old Moshe Yehudai, was injured.

“The state must show zero tolerance for violence, be it against Palestinians, us or the military,” it said. “We wish the wounded soldier a full recovery, and hope for swift and strong action against the rioters.”

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

“Whoever harms a soldier or a commander does not represent anything to do with settling the land or keeping the Torah, and definitely doesn’t represent residents of Yitzhar and Samaria,” he said. “Yitzhar residents serve as reservists, volunteer and are good Zionist people. It is saddening that there are rioters who sully the name of the community and harm the entire settlement movement.”

Bezalel Smotrich of the hard-right National Union expressed similar sentiment, calling the incident “severe” and “frustrating” but also insisting those responsible were few and did not represent the community.

“They must be caught and punished to the full extent of the law,” he said.

Local residents were organizing a demonstration at 1 p.m. in front of nearby military bases in support of the IDF and in protest of the violence against them.

“The soldiers who were attacked and caught by surprise shot in the air, and it’s a miracle this story didn’t end with deaths (from either side). Therefore, many in the community believe a red line has been crossed and we can’t remain silent and keep on with our daily lives,” they wrote in a pamphlet advertising the demonstration.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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