There is no way to describe events in Hebron over the last 48 hours other than as a loss of control. Leaders of the Jewish communities in Hebron and nearby Kiryat Arba no longer have any control over the youths pouring into the so-called "House of Contention." These youths listen to neither community leaders nor the rabbis. Nor have they been moved by the pleas of the house's residents.

At one point, organizers of the struggle to prevent evacuation of the house tried to evict youths from the northern West Bank who, together with local youths, were assaulting Palestinians and soldiers and desecrating the nearby Muslim cemetery. But some of those who were tossed out returned, and some of the youths who were brought from various schools, along with their teachers and rabbis, to replace them, also refused to obey the adults. After a 16-year-old boy was seriously injured yesterday, one rabbi who had come with his students from Beit El said he was no longer willing to take responsibility for what was happening and was going home.

The army and police have also lost control, and have proved unable to stop Jews and Palestinians from hurting each other. The fact that they have allowed the most extremist settlers to set the agenda and dictate the pace of events automatically puts them in an inferior position, in which they are reacting rather than initiating.

The Yesha Council of settlers is nonexistent at the House of Contention, and even Kiryat Arba Mayor Malachi Levinger rarely shows his face. Instead, events are being directed from the roof of the building by the extremist camp: Daniella Weiss, Baruch Marzel, Itamar Ben-Gvir and Rabbi Uzi Sharbaf.

"When you enter the Land of Israel, you must kill the king of Heshbon every day anew," Weiss told her youthful followers, referring to the Biblical king of the Amorites whom the Israelites slew en route to the Promised Land. But even Weiss does not command obedience from the youth: Yesterday, she found herself arguing with a group of 10-year-old girls who could not understand why any restrictions should be placed on their actions.

Mainstream settlers have been voting with their feet: Unlike at the evacuation of Amona three years ago, they have so far ignored calls to come to Hebron and resist the expected evacuation of the House of Contention. Thus instead of the few thousand mainstream settlers struggle organizers had hoped for, they are stuck with a few hundred extremist youths who feel there is no longer anything to lose, who are willing to break all the rules, and who seek to prove once and for all that, contrary to the slogan adopted by settlers during the disengagement, "love" is not the way to win. Under these circumstances, violent clashes seem virtually inevitable.