Settler youth suspected of stoning security forces in fresh attacks

Settler youth suspected of stoning security forces in fresh attacks

Incident near Bat Ayin happens with backdrop of razing of illegal structure on nearby hilltop; hours later, assailants attack Border Police transport near Yitzhar

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

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

Israeli security forces were stoned near West Bank settlements in two separate incidents on Monday in attacks attributed to hard-line settler youth.

Police said settlers had hurled stones at one of their vehicles, dispatched to secure an area near the Bat Ayin settlement before fleeing the scene.

Officers pursued the masked suspects, who also managed to slash the tires of their jeep, but no arrests were made. Police said they were searching the area for the perpetrators.

The incident took place near the settlement south of Jerusalem just a day after security forces had demolished an illegally built structure on an adjacent hilltop.

In a separate incident later Monday, assailants stoned a Border Police transport vehicle next to the Kumi Ori outpost neighborhood of the flashpoint Yitzhar settlement.

There were no injuries to the troops, who were on their way to replace other Border Police personnel in the area.

The attackers escaped and security forces were searching for them around the settlement.

In a similar attack, late Saturday night, a Border Police armored vehicle was pelted with rocks at the entrance to Yitzhar in the northern West Bank, in what was the latest in a series of clashes between settlers in the area and the Israeli army’s security forces.

There were no injuries in that attack, but no arrests were made either.

That same day, the Yesh Din rights group released footage of settlers hurling stones at Palestinian farmers working their land belonging to the northern West Bank village of Burin as Israel Defense Forces soldiers stood by and watched without apprehending the attackers.

The incidents come amid a period of tension in the northern West Bank, mainly between settlers from the Yitzhar area and Israeli security forces, but with Palestinians as well.

Residents said tensions between them and security forces began to rise at the beginning of last month, when the head of Central Command signed off on an administrative order barring from the West Bank a resident of the Kumi Ori outpost neighborhood of Yitzhar. A defense official said the 21-year-old man has been involved in violence against soldiers and Palestinians. The young man denies the claim.

After Yitzhar’s secretariat subsequently cut off ties with the IDF’s top brass, security forces arrested two residents of Kumi Ori — one for lighting a Palestinian field on fire and another for threatening an army brigade commander. One of the suspects claimed to have been assaulted by the arresting officer.

Security forces in the subsequent days twice reported coming under attack while patrolling the area. One officer was lightly injured in the Sunday incident, which involved 30 young far-right activists known as hilltop youth, who hurled stones at the soldiers and slashed the tires of their jeep.

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