Israel Defense Forces officers have lashed out at rioters who clashed with soldiers at the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar on Tuesday.
"These people are scum," one senior officer told Haaretz after three soldiers were wounded by stones thrown near the hilltop settlement, known for its hard-line yeshiva, or Jewish seminary.
It was seminary students who had instigated the violence, the officer said.
"They don't even represent the settlers of Yitzhar. Most of the problems in the area stem from yeshiva students in the settlement. People think they come there to study Torah - but the only reason they come there is to incite riots and provoke the Palestinians."
After the incident, the IDF vowed to take serious steps to curb settle violence at Yitzhar, with assistance from local police and the Shin Bet security service's Jewish unit, set up to thwart violence by extremist settlers.
"[Yitzhar] is a focal point for violence and harassment and the time has come to put a stop to this," the officer said. "The problem requires fundamental action by all the law enforcement agencies."
According to Yitzhar residents, IDF troops began harassing groups of visitors who wanted to tour the area early Tuesday morning, and prevented the visitors from entering the springs near the settlement.
Yitzhar residents said that at a certain point, the soldiers tried to hold back one of the residents, which created upheaval among the settlers.
The residents said that one of the soldiers who were stationed in the area fired a warning shot into the air. The soldier refused to give his name to the residents, and they demanded that he remain in the area until he agreed to tell them his name.
According to the IDF, the soldiers asked the residents to evacuate the area because it was a closed military zone. The residents then began attacking the soldiers with stones, and as a result three soldiers were lightly hurt.
The IDF issued a statement saying that "violence against soldiers is intolerable and an action which crosses the line, especially on Israel's Independence Day. This intolerable behavior will be addressed in accordance with the law at the necessary level of firmness."
A soldier who was in the area told Haaretz that the army was "conducting a routine patrol, and we saw people who were in a place where they weren't supposed to be, according to army orders." The soldier added that the residents began attacking the IDF soldiers, sparking an altercation.
Yitzhar has been at the forefront of the settler movement's 'price tag' policy, which calls for violent retaliation for government restrictions on Jewish building in the West Bank.
Residents have launched numerous attacks on Palestinians, including an arson attack on a mosque in December 2009.