Zionist Union head decries PM, ministers over ‘silence’ on settler violence

After youths injure 11 officers during evacuation of illegally built homes in West Bank outpost, Avi Gabbay says those who harm police should go to jail

Police officers trying to evacuate an illegally built home in the West Bank outpost of Tapuah West, June 17, 2018. (Courtesy)
Police officers trying to evacuate an illegally built home in the West Bank outpost of Tapuah West, June 17, 2018. (Courtesy)

Opposition lawmakers on Sunday decried the violence surrounding the evacuation of illegally constructed buildings in the West Bank settlement of Tapuah earlier in the day, with the leader of the Zionist Union party calling “the silence” of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) in the face of “hilltop hooligans” the “definition of hypocrisy.”

Amid scenes of far-right youths hurling bleach, sticks, eggs and other objects at police, Avi Gabbay said on Twitter, “Whoever harms police officers should go to jail for a long time. Only then will people understand that the country doesn’t accept it.”

As of late Sunday morning, 11 officers had been injured with burns, five settlers had been hurt and six teenage protesters had been arrested for assaulting security forces and rioting, police said.

Hundreds of far-right youth had converged on the illegal northern West Bank outpost of Tapuah West to prevent the demolition of buildings that were ruled by a court in February 2017 to be standing on private Palestinian land.

While the visitors were rioting, the families living in the illegal buildings were vacating the area peacefully, according to Ynet news.

Zionist Union chairman Avi Gabbay leads a faction meeting in Knesset on May 7, 2018. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Previous evacuations in the area have seen violent scuffles between protesters and police.

MK Tzipi Livni, also of the Zionist Union, said, “When the government stands on the side of lawbreakers at the Netiv Ha’avot outpost, it gives permission to other lawbreakers to attack police officers and soldiers.”

On Tuesday, security forces evacuated 15 homes in the West Bank outpost of Netiv Ha’avot southwest of Bethlehem, where some 1,000 youths had gathered.

Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni attends a faction meeting at the Knesset t on May 21, 2018. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

While the first 13 homes were cleared quickly, with demonstrators leaving of their own accord, police spent seven hours battling hundreds of teenage boys who had barricaded themselves inside one of the homes, on the roof, the porch, and in the entryway, using fencing, wooden planks and boulders to stop officers from breaking through.

In another house, police took around an hour to clear more than 100 teenage girls,  a number of whom kicked and screamed at the officers instructed to remove them.

Three youths were arrested at Netiv Ha’avot but were released within a day.

Reacting to Sunday’s events, opposition leader Isaac Herzog called on police to use a “strong hand” against what he called the “rotten apples” who sprayed bleach into police officers’ eyes, employing a play on words on the settlement’s name, Tapuah, which means apple in Hebrew.

Far-right youths protest the court-ordered demolition of 17 buildings in the illegal outpost of Tapuah West. (Israel Police)

“A gang of extremists must not be allowed to besmirch a whole group and the settlement leaders must condemn this strenuously,” he added.

Mossi Raz (Meretz) tweeted, “We can only assume how racist government ministers would have reacted if those being evacuated were Palestinians or Bedouin.”

The evacuation of the unauthorized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in Israel’s southern Negev desert early last year was marked by a confrontation that turned deadly, as well as violent clashes, claims of excessive police violence and homes razed with everything still inside.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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