Police minister condemns 'Jewish terrorists'

Two left-wing activists hurt in West Bank after settlers hurl stones at them

Rights group says security forces were nearby but apparently didn’t intervene during assault, which took place near illegal outpost in South Hebron Hills

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Israeli settlers near an illegal West Bank outpost hurled stones Friday at left-wing activists, injuring two, according to a rights group.

Video footage showed several settlers blocking the activists’ car near the Mitzpe Yair outpost in the South Hebron Hills, with one hurling stones at the vehicle and smashing the front passenger side window.

According to the Yesh Din rights group, the activists were helping repair a road in the Masafer Yatta region, or Firing Zone 918, an agriculture area near Hebron. The rights group clarified that the activists were not part of Yesh Din, but rather of another local organization.

The area has seen one of Israel’s longest-running legal battles, with Israel’s top court recently ruling in favor of evicting over 1,000 Palestinians from the land.

“Settlers blocked the road for the activists, who were on their way out after the activity ended, and as soon as the activists stopped they attacked them and the vehicle with stones,” Yesh Din said.

According to the organization, the two people in the car were taken for medical treatment. No word was given on the severity of their injuries.

The group also said military and police forces were in the area but did not appear to intervene.

A military spokesperson told The Times of Israel that Israel Defense Forces troops identified the violent incident from a distance, and headed to the area to keep the settlers away. They added that police forces were dispatched to the scene to handle the incident as well. No arrests were immediately made.

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev condemned the stone-throwers. “Stones can kill, and those who throw them are terrorists, including when they are Jews,” he said.

Earlier, some 250 settlers, activists and Palestinians demonstrated in the area, according to the military. “IDF forces were present in the area and a closed military zone order was declared to separate and prevent friction between the sides,” the spokesperson added.

As the IDF maintains a large presence in the West Bank, soldiers are often on the scene of these attacks and are regularly seen standing by as they occur. Though soldiers are legally permitted — even required in some cases — to intervene to prevent violent attacks, regardless of nationality, the military generally prefers leaving the arrests of Israeli settlers to the police. 

The practice of non-intervention in settler attacks on Palestinians has come under growing criticism in Israel, following the publication of more and more footage of such incidents and as foreign governments have increasingly expressed concern.

In October, Defense Minister Benny Gantz issued a statement urging the military to act “systemically, aggressively and uncompromisingly” against settler violence directed toward Palestinians, activists and security forces, who have also occasionally come into the crosshairs. The remarks represented rare rhetoric from a senior Israeli official, though no apparent crackdown has followed.

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