A teenage resident of the northern West Bank settlement of Yitzhar was arrested Friday night on suspicion that he threatened a battalion commander in the Israel Defense Forces’ Golani infantry brigade.
“On Friday, several residents gathered and blocked a military vehicle at the entrance to the settlement on Yitzhar,” the army said. “One of the settlers opened the door of the vehicle and threatened its passengers. At that point, the commander of the unit [Lieutenant-Colonel Ayoub Kayouf], who was in the vehicle, emerged and the settlers left the area.
Two days earlier, another youth was arrested in one of the outpost neighborhoods of Yitzhar known as Kumi Uri. The suspect allegedly tried to burn down a Palestinian-owned field located near by. He was released two days later, with his lawyers claiming that he had been beaten by an IDF officer during his arrest.
In its statement on the incident, the IDF did not mention any physical assault on Kayouf — only verbal threats, but the Kan public broadcaster reported that the commander had also been beaten by the settler youth.
The military said that incident was taken care of with the cooperation of the Israel Police and local settler leadership, leading to the arrest of the youth.
“The IDF unequivocally condemns physical and verbal abuse toward its servicemen and takes a very harsh view of this incident,” it said.
The leadership of Yitzhar reiterated in a statement that there was no suspicion that the minor had physically assaulted the officer, and touted its cooperation with the authorities. The statement railed at the timing of the arrest — on Friday night, during the Jewish Sabbath — calling it “a gross violation of individual rights as well as the sanctity of Shabbat.”
Also on Wednesday, Israeli rights groups reported that a gang of masked settlers armed with crowbars brutally assaulted a group of activists, among them an 80-year-old rabbi, who were assisting Palestinian farmers in the northern West Bank with their harvest.
Of five volunteers who were injured, four were visiting from the US, UK and other European countries, said a Yesh Din field worker. Rabbi Moshe Yehudai, an Israeli activist from the Rabbis for Human Rights organization, was the fifth person targeted, suffering blows to the arm and head. He was evacuated to the Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba with a broken arm.
A statement from a spokesperson for the Yitzhar settlement blamed Wednesday’s incident on “provocations caused by extreme-left activists,” who together with Palestinians approached the settlement, which the statement said created “a security hazard.”
Rabbis for Human Rights recruits volunteers to accompany Palestinians, who say they face regular intimidation and violence while tending to crops located near settlements throughout the West Bank.
This year’s annual olive harvest, which has just begun, has seen several incidents of violence in the West Bank. The harvest is a frequent site of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli settlers that the Israel Defense Forces says it seeks to prevent.
Most recently, on Saturday, masked Israeli settlers were filmed hurling stones at Palestinian farmers and stealing their olives, in footage provided by the Yesh Din rights group.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said three farmers from the northern West Bank town of Burin were hospitalized after they were beaten with clubs by Israeli youth. They were released later Saturday afternoon.
After chasing the farmers from their plot, the over two dozen Israeli youth who reached Burin from the neighboring Givat Ronen outpost stole a sheet used for collecting olives, a large bag of olives, and personal belongings, a Yesh Din field worker reported.
After a group of Palestinian youth returned to the scene, clashes broke out between them and the settlers, with both sides hurling stones at one another.
Two Border Police jeeps subsequently arrived at the scene and used riot dispersal measures to disperse the Palestinians.
Later Saturday evening, the IDF and Israel Police confirmed the accusations of settler violence. The army said that eight Israelis hurled stones at Palestinians, injuring one of them before fleeing the scene. A police spokeswoman said that the clashes had ended by the time officers had arrived and therefore they were unable to conduct arrests.
A spokeswoman for the Samaria Regional Council said the Yesh Din account was “nonsense,” but did not provide additional information.