Clashes between Jewish settlers and Israeli police wounded eight people in the West Bank overnight prompting the defence minister to warn on Tuesday that such violence would not be tolerated.
“Police came to help soldiers to demolish five illegal constructions near Yitzhar,” a settlement in the northern West Bank, police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP.
“After they’d finished, several dozen settlers began throwing stones, injuring six border policemen,” she said.
Police responded by using “riot dispersal means,” and two settlers were injured during the clashes, Samri said.
Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon warned that any repetition of the violence against security personnel would be dealt with severely.
“We shall not allow them to raise a hand against the army, the border police (or) the police,” Yaalon’s office quoted him as saying.
“We shall deal with this violent activity with the utmost severity.”
Yitzhar has a reputation for being home to hardline activists. A resident was stabbed to death by a Palestinian last April, further inflaming passions.
Israeli human rights group Yesh Din charged that the army had emboldened hardliners in Yitzhar by failing to do more in response to attacks on Palestinians.
“Israeli security forces have ignored gross violations of the law and serious acts of violence against Palestinians in the vicinity of the settlement of Yitzhar,” the watchdog said.
“It comes as no surprise that the ‘monster’ the security forces have created… has now spun out of control and has begun to attack the security forces themselves.”
Israel has demolished a number of wildcat outposts set up by hardline settlers in the occupied West Bank without government authorisation but around 100 remain.
The international community regards all West Bank settlements as illegal, regardless of whether they are authorised by the Israeli government or not.
In a violent confrontation in December 2012, more than 200 stone-throwing settlers drove off an attempt by security forces to dismantle structures put up at the Oz Zion outpost, wounding five border policemen. The structures were demolished the following day.
But Israel quietly “legalised” several other wildcat outposts the same year, according to Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now.