Islamic Jihad prods Palestinian factions to avenge Hebron settler riots
Protesters burn tires, throw stones at IDF troops in wake of settlers' violence spree.
The Islamic Jihad on Saturday urged all Palestinian factions in the territories to immediately retaliate for the assaults on West Bank residents carried out by riotous settlers following the evacuation of a disputed home in the town of Hebron, Israeli media reported.
The group called on all rival organizations to "use any possible means of struggle to combat the actions of the enemy, his policy, and his schemes." The Jihad bulletin included praise for Palestinian residents of Hebron embroiled in conflict with Jewish settlers.
The Jihad said an all-out war was being waged against the Palestinians in Hebron, Jerusalem, Acre, Ramle, Nablus, Ramallah, Tul Karm, and Gaza. The Islamist group called on all Palestinians to take action against Israel on all fronts, while criticizing the Palestinian Authority's special police force for not taking what it considers proper action during the recent events in Hebron.
Islamic Jihad called upon neighboring Arab states to stage demonstrations, protests, and processions against the incidents in Hebron as well as Israel Defense Forces operations in the Gaza Strip, according to Israeli media.
The group called on Arab leaders to break their silence and declare their support for the Palestinian rejectionist organizations.
Palestinians protested on Friday against a rampage by settlers in response to Israel's eviction of squatters from a disputed building in Hebron, and Israel deployed extra forces to contain the unrest.
Palestinian youths burned tires in Hebron and threw stones at IDF soldiers at a checkpoint, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, witnesses said.
Violence spread to another West Bank town where Palestinians said settlers torched olive orchards, a day after settlers shot and wounded three Palestinians in anger at the removal of Israeli families from a building occupied in defiance of a court order.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki accused the settlers of "waging war" on Palestinians and urged the United Nations Security Council to take up the issue. Malki told reporters in the West Bank town of Ramallah that settlers were taking advantage of a power vacuum since Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's recent resignation in a corruption probe.
Olmert is staying on as caretaker premier with limited power until a Feb. 10 Knesset election. Until then, Israel seems "too weak to take any action against settlers", Malki said.
Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann called the settlers' assaults a "shocking pogrom" and told Channel One television "I regret very much the security forces weren't prepared to prevent" them.
Robert Serry, the UN envoy for the Middle East, issued a statement saying he was "concerned about the potential escalation". He demanded "an immediate end to the settler attacks and restraint and calm from all parties".
Serry also urged "vigilance from the Israeli authorities to ensure that the events of yesterday are not repeated".
Tensions have flared in Hebron since settlers defied a Nov. 16 court order to vacate a house they said they had bought from a Palestinian man who denied ever selling it.
Israel sent in club-wielding troops to remove a dozen settler families from the building on Thursday, after days of stone-throwing protests there between Palestinians and settlers.
Israel reinforced security in Hebron by deploying 500 riot police on Friday, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
Some restrictions were also imposed on Palestinians. Rosenfeld said Palestinians under 45 were barred from attending Friday prayers at al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem to prevent any violence from spreading there.
Some violence was reported on Friday but there were no reports of injuries.
Palestinian witnesses said settlers set fire to hundreds of olive trees near the town of Qalqilya on Friday, near the scene of similar torchings on Thursday.
Palestinians said settlers had erected makeshift roadblocks on several roads in the territory on Thursday, blocking their travel.
Border Police stood guard outside the padlocked disputed house in Hebron on Friday, allowing settlers in only to remove their belongings from the building.
Faiz Rajabi, the building's owner, said he had not yet regained access. "I am waiting to get my house back," he told television stations.