Settlers Rebuild Three Structures in Havat Gilad

Amos Harel
Ha' Ha'aretz Service
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Amos Harel
Ha' Ha'aretz Service

A settler from the nearby settlement of Eli fired shots over the heads of Palestinian olive pickers and peace activists Friday, on the outskirts of the West Bank village of Issawiya.

The settler, who was being questioned by police over the incident, said that he fired the shots after seeing a Palestinian man, accompanied by a left-wing activist who was helping to pick the village's crop of olives, approach the perimeter fence around Eli.

The activists and the settlers have both filed complaints against each other, but a preliminary police investigation suggests that the olive pickers were within the boundaries of the grove, in an area where picking is permitted.

Last week, dozens of settlers attacked West Bank villagers and prevented them from picking their olives by firing guns in the air and toward the Palestinians and dozens of peace activists who had thronged to support them.

Earlier Friday, settlers rebuilt three structures in the illegal settlement outpost Havat Gilad, Israel Radio reported.

A few dozen settlers, mostly youths, have returned to the West Bank outpost near Nablus after security forces evacuated the settlement earlier in the week.

Meanwhile, as of Friday all the settlers who were arrested on suspicion of unruly conduct during the Havat Gilad evacuation have already been released despite the Defense Ministry and State Prosecutor's declarations that Jewish violence in the West Bank would be treated with all due severity.

And in a related development, the evacuation of other West Bank illegal outposts was postponed till the beginning of next week.

The two outposts now targeted for evacuation are Alei Darom, north of Ramallah, and Havat Gilad - again - where dozens of settlers have been staying in tents. Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer ordered the IDF to make sure the evacuation from Havat Gilad is completed.

During the confrontation between settlers and the IDF and police last weekend, 15 people were arrested on suspicion of assaulting and wounding soldiers and policemen, throwing stones and damaging military and police vehicles. However, 14 were released after questioning after the Petah Tikva Magistrate's Court rejected a police request to extend their remand. One suspect, who according to the police was caught puncturing the tires of the car of Shai District police commander Major General Shahar Ayalon, was placed under house arrest.

In another incident during last weekend's riots, one settler tried to attack an IDF brigadier general. An eyewitness said the settler assaulted the officer and grabbed his shirt, trying to rip off his ranks. The officer managed to break free and returned his ranks to their place.

The Shai police district established a special team, headed by Chief Superintendent Wail Hizran, to probe the rowdy behavior of the settlers at Havat Gilad. The team expectes to complete its inquiry over the next few days and arrest a few more settlers.

The police have video film documenting the attacks on the defense forces. During the two days of confrontations at the outpost, 46 policemen and dozens of male and female soldiers and settlers were lightly injured.

Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer Thursday called on the heads of the security forces to act resolutely and firmly to enforce the law on the settlers. At a meeting with senior defense and police officials, the minister said legal measures against violent Jewish settlers must be intensified.

Ben-Eliezer expressed concern over a series of events in the past few weeks: incitement against the government, calls urging soldiers to refuse orders, violence during the evacuation of outposts, and settlers firing at Palestinian olive pickers, plundering their property, and setting Palestinian stores on fire in Hebron.

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