Dozens of settlers raided a military outpost outside the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar overnight Tuesday, after clashing with Border Patrol forces that entered the settlement to demolish illegal structures.
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The reserve soldiers manning the outpost were taken by surprise by the settlers, and stood by as they destroyed nearby military equipment, including tents, portable toilets, heaters and mattresses, an initial report said.
According to one officer, between 40 and 50 settlers approached an outpost manned by a reserve duty squad from the "Regev" battalion of the Samaria Brigade.
The outpost is situated on a hill overlooking Yitzhar, and its soldiers are tasked with protecting it against infiltration attempts.
The settlers arrived at the outpost in the early morning hours. "They didn't harm the soldiers and didn't try to, either," said a reserve officer. "The soldiers were shocked by the fact that they were being attacked by the very same people they were protecting." The officer said the incident only lasted a short time, and that the soldiers did not use their riot dispersal gear or weapons. The settlers "told the soldiers to stand aside so they won't get hurt, and the soldiers stood there embarrassed and frustrated," he said. "They didn't feel threatened and had no reason to open fire."
"My battalion is stationed here to protect the lives of Yitzhar residents," said the officer, "I did not prepare my soldiers for a situation in which they are attacked by those they are protecting."
Asked whether the soldiers stood by while the settlers lay waste to the outpost, the officer said: "I don't know what 'standing by' means. If we need to draw lessons, we will. My soldiers faced a situation they have never imagined, nor have I."
Asked what would have happened if the assailants had been Palestinians, the officer said that his mission is "to protect Jews."
"The Palestinian story is a different story," he said. "My mission is to protect Yitzhar."
The incident followed clashes between hundreds of Yitzhar settlers and Border Police who entered the West Bank settlement overnight Tuesday to demolish illegal structures.
Forces were confronted by hundreds of violent settlers who threw rocks, burned tires and blocked streets. Security forces responded with riot dispersal methods. Six Border Police officers were wounded by rocks; two required hospitalization.
Four structures were demolished and one was confiscated. Two of them were inhabited.