Settlers throw rocks at Palestinian vehicles near Homesh outpost, IDF says

Troops detain one suspect in attack on cars near a military checkpoint outside the illegal settlement; settlers later clash with troops, one soldier injured after being tear-gassed

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Israeli settlers attack Palestinian cars at a checkpoint in the northern West Bank as an IDF soldier attempts to drive them back on January 26, 2022. (Screen capture: Twitter)
Israeli settlers attack Palestinian cars at a checkpoint in the northern West Bank as an IDF soldier attempts to drive them back on January 26, 2022. (Screen capture: Twitter)

A group of Israeli settlers threw rocks Wednesday at Palestinian vehicles that were going through a military checkpoint near the flashpoint Homesh outpost in the northern West Bank, the Israel Defense Forces said.

“IDF soldiers who were at the scene pushed back the rioters and detained one of them until the Israel Police arrived,” the military said in a statement.

Video footage filmed from inside one of the Palestinian cars showed several settlers attacking the vehicles as a handful of soldiers tried to grab them.

Later, several settlers clashed with Israeli forces. A Border Police officer was lightly hurt when teargassed by a settler as he tried to stop him knifing the tire of a patrol car, police said. An investigation into the attack was opened.

Police said the settlers also blocked roads to stop Israeli forces from reaching the area.

Recent days have seen a number of violent attacks by Israeli extremists against Palestinians and left-wing Israeli activists.

In many of those cases, Israeli soldiers were at the scene of the attacks but did not intervene to prevent them. Though IDF troops are legally permitted, even required in some cases, to make arrests in the West Bank, regardless of nationality, the military generally prefers to leave such matters to the Israel Police and Shin Bet security service.

In the case on Wednesday, the military said the soldiers handed over the suspect to the police. The Israel Police did not immediately respond to requests for comment about what its officers did with the suspect.

The settlement of Homesh was officially dismantled in 2005 as part of then-prime minister Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan, which saw the eviction of Israelis from the Gaza Strip and a small number of settlements in the northern West Bank.

The site now belongs to a group of Palestinian farmers, who just last year were given permission to access their lands for the first time since the evacuation of the settlement. However, despite the nominal closure of the outpost, a hardline yeshiva, or religious seminary, has continued to operate there on a daily basis, with no intervention by the army, in direct violation of Israeli law.

Last month, one of the yeshiva’s students, Yehuda Dimentman, was shot dead in a terror attack just outside the site, as he was making his way home. The attack renewed public debate over Homesh, with some on the left in Israel calling for the military to enforce the closure of the site, while those on the right have argued for it to be legalized.

The past week saw two major acts of violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians and left-wing Israeli activists, as well as a case of vandalism.

On Friday, more than 10 masked settlers descended on the Palestinian village of Burin from the nearby illegal outpost of Givat Ronen, wielding clubs and stones, as left-wing Israeli activists attempted to help residents of Burin plant trees within the boundaries of the village. At least six Israelis were injured during the attack, witnesses and medics said. It was not clear how many Palestinians were hurt.

“They threw rocks through the windows of the car, poured gasoline on one of the cars, lit it on fire, and then turned their attention to throwing rocks and hitting any volunteer they could get their hands on,” said Daniel Roth, an American-Israeli activist who works with Rabbis for Human Rights.

The attack was broadly denounced in Israel and, somewhat irregularly, by American Jewish organizations.

Two days later, Israeli settlers vandalized a number of Palestinian cars in the northern West Bank village of Qira, slashing their tires and spray-painting Jewish stars and other graffiti on the vehicles.

On Monday, settlers traveling in an IDF-escorted convoy of vehicles through the Palestinian town of Hawara attacked residents, throwing rocks at Palestinian people, cars and shops, and injuring at least three people, including a 12-year-old boy, according to the town’s mayor.

At least 20 Palestinian vehicles were damaged and storefronts smashed in the village, the left-wing Yesh Din rights group said. An Israeli police spokesperson said officers were investigating the incident.

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