Israeli Army Decries ‘Terrorist Incident’ After Settlers Throw Firebombs at Troops

Forces searching for perpetrators in incident in Yitzhar, which took place after Border Police acted to enforce a closed-off military zone in the nearby outpost of Kumi Ori

Haaretz
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The Border Police vehicle after being hit with a firebomb near Yitzhar, March 26, 2020.
The Border Police vehicle after being hit with a firebomb near Yitzhar, March 26, 2020.Credit: Israel Police
Haaretz

Three firebombs were hurled Thursday night at a Border Police vehicle at the exit of the Yitzhar settlement, a police statement said, in an incident that security forces attributed to local Israeli extremists and dubbed an "act of terrorism." 

One of the firebombs hit the vehicle, causing light damage, police said. There were no casualties. IDF and Border Police forces mobilized to search the scene for the perpetrators. 

Israeli army Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi slammed perpetrators calling the event a major terrorist incident. "Throwing firebombs at security forces fulfilling their mission to protect Israeli citizens was a terrorist act of utmost severity, which undermines the very foundations of the state," he said. "We will continue to take action with all means from imposition of order to the law against this criminality that has turned into terror," he concluded.

The main source of tension between security forces and local extremist youths is the illegal outpost of Kumi Ori, whose dismantlement or enlargement is at the center of a bitter local battle. Settlers have refused to abide by orders to stay away from the area and have confronted IDF soldiers and Border Police both overtly and covertly a number of times. Yitzhar has a reputation of being one of the most radical and violent Israeli settlements in the West Bank. 

Central Command head Nadav Padan explicitly called out the Kumi Ori youths from the contested outpost. "While the state of Israel is facing many challenges, including the coronavirus, the delinquent youths of Kumi Ori have chosen terror and hurled firebombs toward Border Police forces. We will act decisively against the offenders," he said. 

A fire that broke out near Yitzhar from one of the firebombs, March 26, 2020.
A fire that broke out near Yitzhar from one of the firebombs, March 26, 2020.Credit: Israel Police

The police called the event a "very severe terrorist incident," and said that it represents an extreme progression in violence against security forces in the Yitzhar area. 

Yossi Dagan, the Chairman of the Shomron Regional Council (northern West Bank), also condemned the incident. "The whole settlement enterprise and myself are fully behind the Israeli army and the Israeli police. The people of the settlement movement and above all the residents of Yitzhar, condemn the violence against security forces," he said. He also added "everyone knows these are criminal youths from many areas on the country, and they often arrive to Yitzhar to create violent disturbances," seemingly suggesting perpetrators may not be local.

In January, the Border Police and Civil Administration tore down two illegal buildings in Kumi Ori. The outpost was declared a closed military zone some months ago and the buildings’ demolition had been approved at the political level.

One person was arrested for assaulting an officer and entering the closed military zone, and some others were detained at the site and released. The Border Police stated that one of its officers had been mildly injured in the head by rocks thrown as he left the outpost.

In October, the Israeli army issued a closed-off military zone ordinance after several instances of violence against Israeli soldiers, which culminated when some 30 Jewish settlers threw stones at soldiers, lightly wounding one, and punctured their vehicle's tires.

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