Masked men attacked and wounded a Palestinian construction worker in the West Bank settlement of Shiloh yesterday morning.

Sami Snobar, 33, was at work in Shiloh's industrial zone when eight masked men advanced on him, sprayed him with tear gas and then beat him with stones and clubs, witnesses said.

The guard stationed at the site ran over to help, but the masked men shoved him aside and drove off in a waiting car. The settlement's ambulance crew gave Snobar first aid; he was then taken to a Ramallah hospital and released after his contusions were treated.

The attack shocked Shiloh residents. "We reject all violent, illegal activity," the settlement's secretariat said in a statement.

The settlement's rabbi, Elhanan Bin Nun, also denounced the attack. "This is forbidden by both Jewish law and [Israeli] law, and it makes no difference who the assailants were or what their motives were," he said. "Anyone with eyes in his head understands that an assault not stemming from self-defense is liable to lead to unbridled violence. A situation in which a person allows himself to do whatever he pleases is grave and intolerable, and will ultimately lead to [Jewish] attacks on Jews as well."

Even though settlers are often targets of Palestinian violence, "there is no permit for private acts that are liable to worsen the situation," he added.

There is a longstanding dispute between Shiloh and several nearby outposts over employing Palestinians in the settlement. Two months ago, Jewish vandals smashed the windows of a car belonging to a Palestinian worker on the settlement, after which a Shiloh resident offered to pay for the repairs himself.

Even Rabbi Eliezer Melamed of Har Bracha, considered one of the more extreme settler rabbis, used his weekly column in the newspaper Basheva yesterday to denounce "price tag" operations, meaning settler attacks on Palestinians.

"We don't aspire to private vengeance, but to state vengeance led by the Israel Defense Forces and all the systems of government," he wrote.

Brig. Gen. Nitzan Alon, commander of the army's Judea and Samaria Division, also denounced the price tag operations in an interview with Arutz Sheva radio, terming them "contrary to our values as Israelis and Jews."

Settlement leaders and rabbis, he added, "understand very well that the extremist fringes are hurting the settlement enterprise. But I'm not always happy with the level of denunciation. They must be kept from expanding."