A bus used to transport Border Police officers to a flashpoint outpost in the northern West Bank had its tires slashed and the phrase “go [join] the enemy” spray-painted on it in Hebrew overnight Saturday, law enforcement said.
The vehicle was shuttling a group of officers to enforce a closed military zone order at the Kumi Ori wildcat community. When it arrived at the entrance to the Yitzhar settlement just north of the outpost, officers identified a pair of young people holding stones in their hands, Border Police said in a statement. A number of cops got off the bus to scan the area, but the suspects had fled.
The driver of the bus subsequently noticed that his vehicle had been vandalized and Border Police said it was believed the damage was caused while the officers had exited the vehicle to pursue the settler youth.
“Once again, a small group of lawbreakers are trying to damage the security forces’ efforts to enforce a closed military zone order,” Border Police said. “The violence directed against the fighters will not stymie their efforts to carry out their duties and maintain order in the area.”
In October, the IDF declared the Kumi Ori a closed military zone amid a spate of violent attacks perpetrated by the community’s young members against security forces. Border Police officers have since been deployed to the area in order to enforce the order. Relations between locals and soldiers have subsequently deteriorated further, with border cops several times coming under attack from young settlers who have hurled stones at their vehicles and in one instance set one of their tents ablaze.
Almost all of the nearly dozen so-called price tag attacks believed to have been carried out by settler youth against Palestinian property in recent months have included graffiti that has mentioned the closed military zone order. No arrests have been made in those incidents.
Residents of Yitzhar said tensions between them and security forces began to rise in October when the head of the army’s Central Command signed off on an administrative order barring a resident of Kumi Ori from the West Bank. A defense official said Neria Zarog, 21, has been involved in violence against soldiers and Palestinians.
Zarog, who was arrested last month and ordered to abide by the administrative order barring him from the northern West Bank, denied the accusations against him. The far-right activist was released after spending two weeks in prison, refusing to agree to a conditional release that barred him from returning to Kumi Ori. On Sunday, all restrictions against him were lifted.
Vandalism against Palestinians and Israeli security forces are commonly referred to as “price tag” attacks, with their perpetrators claiming that they’re a retaliation for Palestinian violence or government policies seen as hostile to the settler movement.
Arrests of perpetrators have been exceedingly rare and rights groups lament that convictions are even more unusual, with the majority of charges in such cases being dropped.