Suspect sets Border Police tent ablaze at flashpoint outpost near Yitzhar, flees

Suspect sets Border Police tent ablaze at flashpoint outpost near Yitzhar, flees

No officers injured in attack on makeshift post enforcing closed military zone order; security forces view incident as ‘escalation’ in settler violence

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

A fire set to a Border Police tent on the Kumi Ori outpost near Yitzhar on October 24, 2019. (Courtesy)
A fire set to a Border Police tent on the Kumi Ori outpost near Yitzhar on October 24, 2019. (Courtesy)

A suspect set ablaze a tent belonging to security forces dispatched to a flashpoint outpost near the Yitzhar settlement, then fled the scene, Border Police said Thursday night.

No officers were injured, and no one was under the awning when it was set on fire.

The small tent was being used to shade officers during daytime hours while they enforced a closed military zone order issued by the the army for the Kumi Ori outpost, Border Police said in a statement.

Residents of the small hilltop community have been involved in several violent altercations with soldiers and Palestinians in recent days.

A Border Police spokesman said the assumption was that the suspect was an Israeli teen from the area.

Border Police officers stand guard at an outpost near the Yitzhar settlement on October 24, 2019. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

“Security forces view this act as an escalation in violence directed at the fighters and intend to do everything possible to locate the suspect,” Border Police said. “The officers will continue to operate in the area and enforce the [closed military zone] order.”

Earlier Thursday evening, Haaretz reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government ignored recommendations received five times over the past year from the Israel Defense Forces to demolish a caravan belonging to some of the most extreme young settlers in Kumi Ori, which is located three kilometers southwest of Yitzhar.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment on the report.

On Thursday morning, security forces demolished a pair of small makeshift structures in an outpost adjacent to Kumi Ori.

Masked Israeli settlers from Yitzhar and soldiers watch after Palestinian fields were set on fire in the village of Asira al-Qiblyia on June 2, 2010. (Wagdi Ashtiyeh/Flash90)

The Yitzhar secretariat blasted Thursday’s operation, calling it a “violent move that harms its efforts to restore calm.” A defense official told the Kan public broadcaster in response that the Yitzhar leadership was “stoking the flames.”

Thursday events marked another uptick in the violence that has placed Yitzhar and the surrounding outposts in the center of a media storm for the past week.

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

View of the Kumi Ori outpost near the settlement of Yitzhar in the West Bank, October 24, 2019. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

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.

On Sunday and Monday security forces reported that they had come 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.

Border Police have since markedly increased their presence around Yitzhar, with at least one battalion deployed near Kumi Ori.

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