Israeli Security Forces, Settlers Clash After State Moves to Demolish West Bank Outpost

Settlers accuse police of using brute force in clearing of 'Hasruga' outpost near Yitzhar; Haredi IDF soldier defects over demolition; Likud minister: Barak has lost his senses.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

Settlers and security forces clashed early Thursday morning, after two illegal structures were leveled near the West Bank outpost of Yitzhar, with one Haredi IDF soldier defecting as a result of the demolition.

At about 3:30 A.M., security forces arrived at the newly constructed "Hasruga" outpost, built on land that status of which has yet to be determined, with outpost spokesman Avraham Benyamin claiming that police officers locked the sentry and took away his cellular phone.

"The bachelors sleeping in the stone structure were handcuffed, and their cell phones were seized. Photographers who arrived and tried to document the event were assaulted by police," Benyamin said, adding that, in one case, a police officer repeatedly bashed the head of one photographer against a metal pole, deleting the content of his digital camera.

In response to these accusations, the IDF said that officers acted after "20 settlers crowded on one side of the outpost, hurling stones at security forces, while another 20 rolled burning tires toward the access road. In addition, 15 settlers began descending toward the Palestinian villages in the area."

The IDF statement criticized "these acts, directed against the army and its soldiers, divert us from executing our main mission – to defend the State of Israel's citizens and residents."

The evacuation also reportedly spurred a member of the IDF's Haredi Netzah Yehuda Battalion to defect.

According to the Hakol Hayehudi website, the soldier, Pini Shandorfi, was called to replace Border Police officers sent to take part in the evacuation. In response, Shandorfi removed his vest and weapon, telling his commander that he refused to take part in actions against Jews.

In response to the demolition, Public Diplomacy Minister Yuli Edelstein said that the move was initiated since Defense Minister Ehud "Barak lost his senses in the face of the polls, and decided to run his election campaign by harassing the settlers in Judea and Samaria."

"I urge the prime minister to tighten his supervision of [Barak's] powers in this sensitive time ahead of the elections, before someone could get hurt," Edelstein said.

Security forces are due to demolish a structure in Mitzphe Yitzhar, another of Yitzhar's "satellite" outposts. A High Court of Justice ruling determined that the home, built on private Palestinian land, would be evacuated according to operational considerations.

A settler scuffling with an Israeli border police officer as she is arrested near a disputed house in the West Bank town of Hebron, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008.Credit: AP

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