Settlers Throw Firebomb at IDF Bulldozer in West Bank

Four settlers arrested; settler leader to face probe for urging residents to infiltrate Homesh, Sa-Nur.; IDF soldier wounded by settlers.

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Settlers threw a firebomb at an Israel Defense Forces vehicle near the Kedumim junction in the West Bank late on Sunday afternoon during a violent demonstration by dozens against the evacuation of settlements.

There were no casualties as the engineering vehicle went up in flames at the junction located just south of Homesh and Sa-Nur, the two West Bank settlements slated for evacuation this week.

The eight settlers who set the bulldozer ablaze fled the scene after the driver threatened them with his personal weapon.

Four police officers and three protesters were wounded in the violent clashes at Kedumim.

Meanwhile, an IDF soldier was lightly wounded during a scuffle with residents in the northern West Bank settlement of Homesh late Sunday afternoon. The soldier was evacuated to hospital.

The soldier was involved in preparations for the evacuation of the settlement when a confrontation broke out.

Security forces arrested four settlers on Sunday, two in Kedumim and two in Sa-Nur.

Settler leader calls for West Bank infiltrations The head of the Karnei Shomron council on Sunday called on his West Bank settlement's residents to infiltrate the nearby settlements of Homesh and Sa-Nur, which have been sealed off by the IDF in preparation for their expected evacuation this week.

In response to the appeal, Interior Minister Ophir Pines-Paz called for council head Herzl Ben-Ari to face a hearing to "clarify the legal aspects of the council head's actions and the appropriation of tax-payers' money for a political campaign."

Following the hearing, the Interior Ministry is liable to impose economic sanctions on the Karnei Shomron council.

Last Wednesday, the Karnei Shomron council sent official letters to the 6,400 residents under its jurisdiction. Pines-Paz said the letters included a call by Ben-Ari to break the law and infiltrate areas slated for evacuation in Gush Katif and the neighboring northern West Bank.

Ben-Ari applauded Karnei Shomron residents who had successfully infiltrated Gush Katif. He also called on residents to block roads in southern Israel in order to "stop the deportation machine."

Pines notified Ben-Ari that he had directed all local authorities in the West Bank, including Karnei Shomron, not to use tax-payers' and public resources for the funding of political campaigns against the disengagement. This directive was issued following an appeal by Peace Now to the High Court of Justice. According to Pines-Paz, Ben-Ari's letter violated this directive.

The Interior Ministry refused to detail what measure might be taken against the council and said it would wait until the conclusion of the hearing into the matter. However, following the Peace Now petition before the High Court, Pines-Paz said his ministry is authorized to freeze funds to a council until said council proves it is not illegally using public funds for political campaigns.

Fierce opposition expected Opposition to the evacuation of Sa-Nur and Homesh, in the northern West Bank, set to begin on Wednesday, is expected to be fierce. A senior police official said he believed the struggle would be violent and even escalate to the use of firearms.

Earlier on Sunday, settlers punctured the tires of trucks delivering empty trailers to Sa-Nur. They also tried without success to hamper the preparation of a parking area for army vehicles, but managed to puncture the tires of several military vehicles. One youth was lgihtly wounded in clashes and it appeared likely his arm was broken.

Two youths were also arrested for spreading spikes on the road that will by used by IDF vehicles during the evacuation.

Sticks, rocks, oil, sprays and other means are expected to be used against the evacuating forces, as in Kfar Darom. Another concern is that the settlers might enter nearby Arab villages and carry out attacks, as happened recently in Shiloh and Shfaram.

However, another police official said Saturday, "Current intelligence information gives us no indication of an organized use of arms toward evacuating forces. However, we are preparing for any eventuality."

"What happened on the roof of the Kfar Darom synagogue is mild compared to what we expect at Sa-Nur and Homesh," a senior IDF officer told Haaretz at the weekend.

A total of 2,100 people are now in Homesh and Sa-Nur, among them hundreds of radical youths and a large group of Chabad Hasids who have infiltrated in recent months. Of that number, 1,500 are in Homesh, where previously only 15 families had been living.

The residents of two other northern West Bank settlements - Ganim and Kadim - left voluntarily over the past several weeks. Infiltrations by night have continued over the past few days, even after the IDF declared the area closed last week. A number of right-wing activists have been arrested near both settlements.

The IDF attempt to collect weapons from the residents of the two settlements has met with only partial success, more from Sa-Nur than from Homesh. "It is a mistake to think Sa-Nur is the more problematic of the two settlements," a police officer said. "We see a concentration of hundreds of extremists on Homesh who might react with violence and even use firearms," police said Saturday.

Applying lessons learned from the evacuation in the Gaza Strip, the Central Command will be using harsh measures against pullout foes from the outset. Police anti-riot units and Border Police will enter the settlements first to clear rioters from the streets and only then go to the homes.

Mounted police will be deployed in greater numbers than in the Gaza Strip, along with water cannons. Arming the police with clubs is also under consideration.

"The force we apply at the outset might prevent serious escalation to violence later," a senior officer said. "The only way to respond to their militancy is to finish it hard and fast. There is not a lot of room here for negotiation. They want a confrontation," the officer said.

The Central Command is concerned by the lack of leadership among the pullout opponents and their desire to "burn into the public's consciousness" harsher pictures than those that emerged from the roof of the Kfar Darom synagogue, both of which might lead to greater violence. "We are trying to help create a leadership there that we can negotiate with over the rules of evacuation," the officer said.

"To this end, we will consider allowing rabbis in, especially to Sa-Nur. The second problem is that many of those at Sa-Nur and Homesh feel the scar left by the evacuation of Gush Katif was not deep enough and an incident must be created that will really be remembered in the history of Israel."

One police officer said that in recent weeks some families have fled what he called the "atmosphere of anarchy" now prevailing in the settlements. In recent days young people have been involved in scuffles with veteran residents of the two settlements.

In one case youths punctured the tires of the vehicle belonging to the civilian security officer in Homesh. Police sources said Saturday that one of the rabbis identified with Sa-Nur left the settlement after he told police he could no longer control the youths there. Extremist elements from nearby settlements, including Adei-Ad, Yitzhar and Itamar, have joined the group at Sa-Nur and Homesh in recent days.

"I am afraid the flames here will be higher than in the Gush. This group has nothing to lose - neither property, nor compensation, nor public opinion, which it didn't have anyhow," the officer said.

The IDF has stopped entering Sa-Nur, and now only those the settlers call "the good army" - Nahal soldiers in charge of their security - are going in. "The IDF has deployed thousands of troops at roadblocks and observation points in the northern West Bank to prevent additional attempts to infiltrate the settlements, and clashes with infiltrators are expected in the coming days.

Marches toward the settlement began Saturday night, some in cooperation with the Yesha Council.



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