Ultranationalist youths persist with coordinated campaign to block Gaza aid trucks

Trucks stopped Sunday night in Jerusalem, at Latrun interchange and spots in West Bank, in effort to stop passage of humanitarian aid as long as hostages are held in Strip

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

File - People holding Israeli flags stand in front of trucks carrying humanitarian aid as they try to stop them from entering the Gaza Strip near the Kerem Shalom border crossing, May 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
File - People holding Israeli flags stand in front of trucks carrying humanitarian aid as they try to stop them from entering the Gaza Strip near the Kerem Shalom border crossing, May 9, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Bands of extremist youths halted trucks in several places around the country Sunday night in what appeared to be the continuation of a coordinated, often-violent campaign to halt the transfer of humanitarian aid to Gaza for as long as Israeli hostages are still held captive by Hamas in Gaza.

Trucks — not all of which were actually carrying Gaza-bound aid, according to the police — were stopped by vigilantes on Route 1 in northern Jerusalem, at the Latrun interchange and in several spots in the West Bank. In some instances, the activists demanded documentation for the cargo being carried by the trucks to find out whether it was humanitarian aid bound for Gaza.

Far-right activists took to Twitter and WhatsApp to call attention to sites where trucks were passing through and to coordinate efforts to block them.

Ultranationalist activists and settlers have attacked aid convoys from Jordan, passing through the West Bank and destined for Gaza since the beginning of April, while National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who has authority over the police, has faced accusations that he does not want the force to prioritize protecting the convoys and has ordered them to treat those attacking the trucks with a light hand.

In videos published by the Haaretz daily, radical religious Zionist so-called hilltop youths can be seen stopping several trucks on Route 1 east of Jerusalem, examining the documents presented to them and even inspecting the cargo holds of the trucks.

In the videos from the Jerusalem area, police patrol cars can be seen arriving at the site where trucks are being halted. The video shows the police officers largely ignoring the youths.

The police said in response to the incident that police officers did subsequently remove the youths on Route 1 near Jerusalem and at the Latrun interchange in order to allow traffic to flow freely, but did not explain why the officers in the video did not immediately intervene.

Activists from the Standing Together organization help reload cartons of humanitarian aid destined for Gaza thrown off a truck by extremists opposing the supply of aid to Gaza at the Tarqumiyah Crossing in the West Bank, May 19, 2024. (Courtesy Standing Together)

The police stated that two of the youths were “apprehended and transferred” to the police station in Jerusalem, and that three others involved in the Latrun incident were given traffic fines.

Police said no humanitarian aid trucks had passed through the area of the Latrun incident, adding: “No reports or complaints of assault were received by the police, and the traffic on the road continued as normal.”

In addition, the Kan public broadcaster reported that a truck was stopped by extremists outside the illegal West Bank outpost of Evyatar and its contents were stolen, while trucks were also stopped by the Kfar Adumim junction in the West Bank, east of Jerusalem.

At least seven aid trucks from Jordan were stopped and ransacked last week by right-wing activists, prompting a police investigation and outcry from the United States.

During an interview with Army Radio on Sunday, Ben Gvir praised the vigilantes, saying it was “very good that they’re protesting” but he noted, “I don’t think they should burn trucks or beat people up,” adding, “I think that the ones who need to stop the aid is the security cabinet.”

Asked about reports in the Hebrew press that he had reprimanded senior police officers for providing protection to the aid convoys, Ben Gvir said: “It is not acceptable to me… that they’re bringing out all these forces only to help these aid trucks.”

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