Hebron settler mob caught on video clashing with IDF troops
MKs urge legal action as settler violence erupts in Hebron; rightists graffiti mosque.
Human rights group B'Tselem released footage on Thursday showing a mob of settlers clashing with Israeli security forces in the West Bank town of Hebron.
During the clashes that erupted early Thursday, some settlers began to attack Palestinian locals while others wounded an IDF soldier by pouring turpentine on him as he tried to stop them from throwing stones at Palestinians.
The B'Tselem footage, featured below, also appears to show the settlers puncturing the tires of an army jeep stationed nearby, which they did to a number of other military vehicles during the clashes.
The violence erupted early Thursday at a disputed house slated for evacuation in the West Bank city of Hebron. Israeli and Palestinian officials alike called for legal action in light of the clashes.
The High Court on Sunday ordered the settlers to vacate the house, after it was revealed that they had forged ownership documents. The settlers were given until noon Wednesday to evacuate voluntarily, a deadline that expired without heed.
The Defense Ministry said it would avoid the use of force in the evacuation and would try to urge the settlers to leave on their own accord.
By late Wednesday, the house was still not evacuated and the settlers' protests grew hotter throughout the city.
Settlers spray 'Mohammed Pig' on walls of mosque
The settlers also scribbled graffiti around Hebron, including spraying 'Mohammed Pig' on the walls of a local mosque and on Palestinian homes nearby.
Mouatassem Daana, a Palestinian resident of Hebron, said he saw settlers gathered near the building "writing demeaning graffiti on the wall of the mosque insulting the Prophet Mohammad" and breaking windows.
An IDF spokesman said settlers also vandalized a cemetery near the mosque. Solders were "working to remove the graffiti and repair the damage" to the mosque and a cemetery, the spokesman said.
"We take such incidents seriously," he added.
MK Otniel Schneller, a Kadima lawmaker opposed to the evacuation, said police and security forces must find those in violation of the law and try them as needed.
Meretz lawmakers Zahava Gak-On and Avshalom Vilan called on the defense minister to take action against the violent activists: "The time has come for these settlers to understand that Hebron is not the wild west," said Gal-On.
Hebron's Palestinian governor, Hussein al-Araj, urged Israeli authorities to halt the settler violence and carry out the court decision.
"What happened is unacceptable," he said. "The Israelis have to enforce the law and stop the suffering of the Palestinians who are living next to settlers. They have to take the settlers from this house and protect the Palestinians."
The Judea and Samaria Police Department was to hold consultations on Thursday to determine how best to deal with the settlers' violence.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak was also expected to meet with security officials for consultations on carrying out the evacuation in accordance with the High Court orders.
However, government legal aides said Wednesday that despite the three-day deadline, the Israel Police and Israel Defense Forces actually have more than 30 days to comply with the High Court decision.
Government legal aides are expected to submit their interpretation of the court's ruling Thursday to Barak.
"I call on everybody involved [in the affair] to act responsibly and in accordance with the state's essence and judicial institutions," Barak said Wednesday in an interview with Army Radio. "It's the fundamentals of the country and we will insist on it."
The security establishment originally believed that the court's ruling required it to evacuate the settlers within a month. However, because the occupation of the house began a year ago, it is not deemed as "new" and the state is thereby not required to abide by the law concerning recently discovered squatters that they be vacated within a month's time.
The Defense Minister's bureau said it has begun talks with settler leaders regarding the evacuation of the house despite slim chances of reaching a deal to that effect.
The house, which has come to be known as either the "Peace House," "Beit Hameriva" ("The House of Contention") or "The Brown House," is located near the Worshipers Way, a strategic locale from the settlers' perspective.
The acquisition of additional houses nearby would help settlers strengthen their position in the area.
Hebron has been a flashpoint of Israeli-Palestinian violence in recent years. Some 650 settlers live in fortified enclaves guarded by Israeli troops in the heart of the city of 180,000 Palestinians.
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