Israeli Intelligence Officials Repeatedly Warned IDF of Right-wing Violence

Information reportedly known to Central Command's top brass prior to a Monday attack on an IDF base int the West Bank.

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Haaretz has learned that intelligence officials have warned repeatedly over the past few months that right-wing activists would try to sabotage military vehicles inside bases to thwart attempts to evacuate outposts.

The information was reportedly on the desks of Central Command's top brass, which raises questions about the army's functioning during Monday night's settler violence against the Israel Defense Forces.

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz arriving to inspect the damage to Ephraim Brigade headquarters in the northern West Bank.Credit: Daniel Bar-On

"In my 30 years in the IDF I never saw such hatred by Jews toward soldiers," GOC Central Command Avi Mizrahi said Tuesday.

Mizrahi was near Ramat Gilad during the violence, but he was in a civilian car and was not seen by the protesters.

Some 300 settlers who received word about the intent to demolish the Ramat Gilad outpost in the northern West Bank faced off late Monday night against Israeli troops near the outpost.

Inscription 'Kahane was right' painted on a Jerusalem mosque, Dec. 14, 2011.
Jerusalem moque after price tag attack, Dec. 14, 2011.
Mosque in Jerusalem following price tag attack, Dec. 14, 2011. Graffiti reads "Kahane lives" and "A good Arab is a dead Arab."
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Inscription 'Kahane was right' painted on a Jerusalem mosque, Dec. 14, 2011.Credit: Jerusalem Fire Dept
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Jerusalem moque after price tag attack, Dec. 14, 2011.Credit: Emil Salman
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Mosque in Jerusalem following price tag attack, Dec. 14, 2011. Graffiti reads "Kahane lives" and "A good Arab is a dead Arab."Credit: AFP
Jerusalem price tag

They blocked the road, threw stones at Palestinians' cars and attacked the vehicle of the commander of the Ephraim Brigade, slightly injuring his deputy.

In another incident, about 50 settlers and right-wing activists broke into the Ephraim Brigade headquarters, slashing tires and throwing bottles of paint and stones at vehicles.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called an emergency meeting Tuesday morning with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino, Mizrahi and other defense officials. The situation was "intolerable," Netanyahu said.

On Sunday, after information was leaked to settlers that 400 Border Police had been sent to the Ephraim Brigade's headquarters near the northern West Bank settlement of Kedumim, young settlers streamed to the area. They sought to prevent an evacuation of Mitzpeh Yitzhar and Ramat Gilad.

Sunday night passed without incident, but on Monday afternoon, the settlers were informed that a bulldozer was at the brigade headquarters, and they believed an evacuation was imminent.

Meanwhile, negotiations continued between Minister Benny Begin and settlement leaders over the evacuation of Ramat Gilad. Right-wing activists reportedly feared that if no agreement was reached the army would evacuate Ramat Gilad that night. They collected tires to burn and built roadblocks as they waited for the forces.

It is still unclear what the army intended to do. One officer said the intent was to demolish Mitzpeh Yitzhar; another claimed that the military wanted to pressure the settlers into a compromise by gathering its forces.

Around midnight Monday, about 200 hundred people, some with their faces masked, gathered on Route 55 at the entrance to Ramat Gilad and threw stones at Palestinian cars.

An IDF force under the brigade commander, Col. Ran Kahana, was dispatched to the site. One of the young settlers opened Kahana's car door and threw a concrete block at him.

The young man then approached the deputy brigade commander, Lt. Col. Tzur Harpaz, hit him in the head and said: "You're a Nazi." According to Mizrahi, Harpaz's grandmother is a survivor of Auschwitz.

The rioters slashed tires of military vehicles and threw stones and bottles of paint at police and soldiers.

At about 1 A.M., the protesters on the road were picked up by a bus and driven to the entrance to the Ephraim Brigade headquarters, about five minutes away.

It is unclear what they intended to do there. Some of the young men claimed they had wanted to demonstrate legitimately at the base gate but in the heat of the moment they entered the base.

Several dozen young men entered the base, after the soldiers on guard at the gate did nothing to stop them.

Security cameras caught the protesters and a squad was sent to the scene, but the infiltrators had already reached the base parking lot and began to smash windshields and slash tires.

Officers at the base did nothing to prevent the acts. Only after some time did police arrive and chase off the intruders. The incident ended at around 1:30 A.M.

Among the questions that arose following the incident is how the protesters entered the base unhindered, despite warnings that extremists would try to foil an evacuation by destroying equipment.

The police response was also apparently slow and feeble.

The army claimed that it realized early on that they would have rioting on the road but the police took a long time to send trained personnel to the scene.

There are dozens of young men at the outpost of Mitzpeh Yitzhar, also slated for demolition, who according to intelligence assessments will stop at nothing to prevent evacuation. The operation will require significant numbers of well-trained forces.

The evacuation of the outpost of Migron is scheduled for March. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly does not want to destroy it, but neither does he want an unprecedented battle with the attorney general and the High Court of Justice over it. Monday night's events in Samaria will likely pale in comparison to what will happen when an attempt is made to evacuate the outpost, with its 45 families.

Mizrahi said he believed the events were planned. "I saw the rioters throwing stones and cursing our soldiers and commanders and I was shocked," he said. "It would be correct for all of us as a state to come to our senses so that order will be restored. To this moment I have not heard strong enough condemnation of the from the settlement leadership, which is law-abiding in the main."

Mizrahi said the IDF was "ready to carry out the orders of the elected government. We will enforce the law despite them," he said, referring to the rioting settlers. "If the government orders us to evacuate Ramat Gilad, we will evacuate Ramat Gilad," he said.

An officer who helped chase away the rioters from the brigade headquarters said that they then continued to block the road leading to the base. "We left our weapons in the jeeps and we used physical force to move them out," he said, explaining that the road to the base had to be kept open.

The officer said most of the intruders into the base were under age 18.

Tuesday evening, residents of the nearby settlement of Kedumim held a demonstration in support of the IDF near the gate of the brigade headquarters.

Friends of Kahana say he is a quiet man and "not the type to be at the center of a public storm."

While some senior officers in the Judea and Samaria Division had become targets of the extreme right, Kahana, who took up his post a few months ago, had not had faced off against them.

Preparations continue in the defense establishment for the evacuation of Ramat Gilad and Mitzpeh Yitzhar, which are to be demolished by the end of the month. Moshe Zar, a leader at Ramat Gilad, told Haaretz Tuesday that he had purchased the land from a Palestinian in 1983 but the seller had been beaten up for doing so, and asked Zar not to register the land in his name.

Zar's ownership of the land has not been recognized by judicial authorities. For the past two weeks Zar has been negotiating with Begin to voluntarily evacuate part of the site in order for the rest to be recognized as legal.

Last night, the residents of Ramat Gilad were reportedly promised they could stay as long as negotiations were underway.

At Mitzpeh Yitzhar, a goat shed and a home are slated for demolition.



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