Settlers Throw Rocks at Israeli Forces Who Take Down Illegal Building in Yitzhar

Three arrested ■ Incident came hours after two dozen Palestinian-owned olive trees nearby were found damaged

Israeli security forces arrest a resident of Yitzhar, June 25, 2017.
Israeli security forces arrest a resident of Yitzhar, June 25, 2017. Reuven Taib

Three Jewish settlers were arrested on Sunday in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar after several residents threw rocks at Israeli security personnel who dismantled an illegally built structure in the community. No one was injured in the incident, in the course of which the settlers also blocked the road to security vehicles

The incident came a few hours after some two dozen olive trees belonging to residents of Burin, a nearby Palestinian town, were found hacked. The Hebrew word for “revenge” had been painted on a rock near the trees, and Israeli military forces are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime against Palestinians.

Photographs from the scene of the rock-throwing show a group of about eight soldiers dismantling a temporary structure that was put up without a permit. Afterward, rocks were thrown at members of the security forces, who included soldiers, Border Police officers and employees of the Civil Administration.

As the security forces left Yitzhar, settlers again threw rocks at them. The forces fired percussion grenades to disperse the perpetrators.

In a statement, the office of the army spokesman confirmed the arrests and the details of the rock-throwing incident, adding that the perpetrators also used verbal violence against the security forces. The statement said the Israel Police will handle the incident.

Continuing, the statement said the army “views with severity any harm to security forces carrying out their jobs and protecting area residents. The security forces will continue to act to enforce law and order in Judea and Samaria.”

Destroyed olive treas near Burin, the West Bank, June 25, 2017. The photo shows several olive trees whose branches have been hacked off.
Zacharia Sadeh/Rabbis for Human Rights

After the damaged trees were discovered, Palestinians gathered at the site. The army confirmed that soldiers were sent in to disperse the Palestinians, and that the police were notified.

“There were 45 olive trees there, by the road, under Yitzhar,” said Rabbis for Human Rights field worker Zacharia Sadeh, who was at the scene. “It looks to be very fresh, new. They spray-painted the word ‘revenge’ there,” said Sadeh.

Over the past few weeks, at least 12 violent attacks by settlers against Palestinians, left-wing activists and soldiers in the West Bank have been reported. One of the two centers of the violence is in the area around Yitzhar.

The incidents include stone-throwing and at least two alleged “price tag” hate crimes in the towns of Burin and Hawara. Of these incidents, at least nine were documented or occurred in the presence of soldiers. As of now, no one has been arrested for involvement in these incidents, but the security forces have two other suspects under arrest, including a youth under administrative detention without a trial for two months by the Shin Bet security service on suspicions they were involved in other violent acts against Palestinians. The full details are under a gag order.

"Revenge" in Hebrew painted on rock near hacked olive trees near Palestinian town of Burin, June 25, 2017.
Zacharia Sadeh/Rabbis for Human Rights