Two policemen from the Border Police were wounded Friday morning during a violent confrontation with settlers while dismantling an illegal outpost near Yitzhar, in the northern West Bank.
Dozens of settlers clashed with security forces at the Kippah Sruga outpost. Police said that the settlers had thrown objects at troops, burned tires and sprayed security forces with pepper spray.
Security forces arrived at the outpost to enforce a closed military zone order, which banned civilian access to the area. Police said dozens of settlers had set up road blocks, including flaming tires.
In a statement, police said that an illegal structure was erected earlier in the day by some 30 people, after it had already been removed in the past. Security forces, they said, started encountering resistance when trying to reach the area, and violent confrontations broke out.
"Forces encountered severe violence when they reached the site to dismantle the structure. Rioters used pepper spray, struck the officers and threw objects at them. Two officers were lightly injured, one was punched, the other was injured by pepper spray. Both were taken for medical treatment," the statement said.
Police arrived to evict settler activist Neriah Zuareg, his wife Miriam and their three children from the illegal structure that had been built several hours earlier. Miriam claimed that the officers acted violently during the eviction and arrested Neriah immediately upon entering.
“The police didn’t show any official order, not a demolition order or any other, and without explanation evicted us from the house. After several hours they destroyed the house, all of our gear was thrown out and destroyed, including the refrigerator, the chicken coop, the couches,” she said.
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Adi Keidar, a lawyer for the family, said “My client was violently arrested in his home, as officers broke in without a warrant under the cover of night. It must be said that the Israel Police have their priorities, that amid a difficult security period and amid a pandemic they chose to send a large force to evacuate a Jewish home in the hills of Yizhar. We haven’t seen such actions on building violations in the Bedouin and Arab communities. We demand the release [of my client] and an investigation of the officers involved in the incident.”
Border Police eventually dismantled the illegal structure that had been rebuilt by settlers. Neriah Zuareg was detained and taken for questioning.
Yitzhar, which is near the Palestinian city of Nablus, is renowned for being home to groups of young violent settlers sometimes referred to as "Hilltop youth."
Illegal outposts around the settlement are often a source of conflict between the activists, who want to expand the area under their control as much as possible, and security forces enforcing military law.
A spokesperson for Yitzhar released a statement to convey the settlement's position on the incident. He regretted that "some of the officers arrived at the scene without wearing masks," as mandatory under the regulations against the spread of the coronavirus, and that "some did not have tags [identifying them as police]."
"The Border police officers used harsh violence against residents who did not do a thing," the statement read. In the last line it adds: "Of course we oppose stone-throwing and these incidents should have no place in Yitzhar."