30 Injured, Four Arrested as Police Evacuate Families, Supporters From Hebron Market

Some 30 people were injured yesterday morning when security forces clashed with settlers whom they were evacuating from the wholesale market area in Hebron.

According to police, 11 policeman were wounded in the skirmishes that erupted at the market, where Jewish settlers and right-wing activists were illegally occupying several buildings. Three policemen were taken to the hospital. Local Jewish community leaders said that 26 activists were treated for injuries.

Police took four protesters into custody.

The evacuation began shortly after 6 AM, after hundreds of right-wing activists had barricaded themselves inside three apartments in the market and had encircled the market with barbed wire, oil drums, and burning tires. Protesters also locked and welded shut the doors to the apartments.

Dozens of teenagers, some of them wearing masks, took to the roofs of the market, from where they threw rocks, eggs, and light bulbs at security forces. Large numbers of police climbed to the roofs, where they attempted to stop the stone-throwers.

The evacuating forces discovered an improvised bunker in the third apartment, where three settlers had barricaded themselves inside with flammable oxygen tanks. Concrete blockades placed in the apartment also made it difficult to reach the second floor. IDF Engineering Corps troops were brought in to break through the bunker.

The IDF hired a moving company, and soldiers loaded the evacuated families' possessions onto the trucks. In addition, police removed windows and doorposts from the apartments, in order to prevent a possible attempt by settlers to return in the future. Police also removed doorposts and knocked down plaster walls in other apartments in the market, which had historically housed Jewish families, in order to prevent the settlers from returning.

Soldiers called 'Nazis'

When security forces entered the Zar household - one of the settlers community's prominent families - Moshe Zar tried fruitlessly to persuade police officers to stop dragging his relatives out of their home. Several teenage girls called the officers "Nazis."

Nadia Matar, head of right-wing group Women in Green and renowned for protesting Israel's 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, was among the protesters removed by police from one of the apartments. She was dragged out kicking and screaming, accusing the officers of being "anti-Semitic bullies." The settler's resistance was nonetheless passive and less violent than in the past.

All in all, some 3,000 security personnel from the IDF, police force and Border Police participated in the evacuation.

On Monday, 12 Israel Defense Forces soldiers in the Duchifat Battalion refused orders to take part in the evacuation, in the most wide-scale military refusal since the disengagement from Gaza two years ago. They were brought before a disciplinary hearing Monday night, by order of GOC Central Command Gadi Shamni.

Shamni further decided that the soldiers will no longer be allowed to serve in combat units. "This is a phenomenon that endangers the basis on which the IDF operates, as an army of the people in a democratic country, and its obligation to carry out the tasks assigned to it," Shamni said.