Israeli police said Thursday they arrested five people suspected of demolishing a military base in an extremist settlement in the West Bank, the latest attack against security forces by hardliners.
The males, aged 16-29, were arrested for involvement in Tuesday’s vandalism in the northern West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP.
Another three suspects were in custody, two for the same attack and a third for throwing stones at soldiers patrolling the settlement, Rosenfeld said.
On Sunday, the tyres of a vehicle belonging to a military commander visiting Yitzhar were slashed.
The following night, stone-throwing settlers injured six border guards as soldiers helped demolish a wildcat settlement outpost nearby.
That prompted Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon to warn that any further violence against security personnel would be dealt with severely.
And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged a “strong response to these… acts of hooliganism.”
Former chiefs of Israel’s Shin Bet internal security service said the attacks should be dealt with severely.
“The things that are happening in Yitzhar truly are Jewish terrorism,” Avraham Shalom, director from 1980 to 1986, told Yediot Aharonot newspaper.
Avi Dichter, Shin Bet head from 2000 to 2005, said “they didn’t kill the soldiers and they didn’t take them hostage, but they did precisely what terrorists do: they took the law into their own hands… and hurt people in order to coerce the state into acquiescing to their demands.”
Meanwhile, the army said Thursday it would not allow a march to the site of an evacuated settlement that had been planned for next week.
“Following an assessment of (army’s) ability to allocate the required forces necessary to provide security, the decision was made not to approve the march to Homesh,” a statement said.
But settlers accused the army of punishing Yitzhar residents for the actions of a few wayward individuals.
“The army told us it was cancelling Homesh following the Yitzhar incidents,” a spokeswoman for the Samaria regional council, which covers northern West Bank settlements including Yitzhar, told AFP.
“It is inconceivable that the Samaria council and the entire settler populace has to pay a price over the deeds of a few outlaws, who should be arrested by police.”
The northern West Bank settlement of Homesh was built on land confiscated from Palestinians in 1978, and cleared of settlers in 2005. The military said in September the land was due to be returned to its Palestinian owners in the village of Burka.