Group of 15 settlers narrowly avoids getting lynched in Palestinian village of Jallud • IDF says the settlers entered the village with the clear intent of carrying out a "price-tag" attack • Handful of Palestinians shield settlers until IDF troops arrive.
Israel Hayom Staff and News Agencies
The surrounded group of settlers in Jallud on Tuesday
Photo credit: AFP
Palestinians protect the surrounded group of settlers in Jallud on Tuesday
Photo credit: AFP
Palestinians help IDF troops extract the group of settlers from Jallud on Tuesday
Photo credit: AFP
A burned vehicle in the Palestinian village of Madama on Wednesday
Photo credit: AFP
Some 15 settlers from Esh Kodesh placed themselves in life-threatening danger on Tuesday as a result of provocative decision on their part to enter the Palestinian village of Jallud, adjacent to Ramallah. Residents began to riot and it was only thanks to several village officials and elders that the settlers escaped from the incident with their lives.
Villagers accused the settlers, ages 15 to 30, of throwing rocks at farmers tending their fields, shattering the windows of a local home and assaulting three residents.
Village officials and elders attempted to contain the situation. According to reports, six Palestinian men shielded the settlers with their bodies against what quickly grew into an angry mob, and were able to hold the settlers in an uninhabited structure on the outskirts of the village until Israel Defense Forces troops arrived.
The IDF said the settlers, all known right-wing activists, entered the village with the clear intent of carrying out a "price-tag" attack.
The settlers denied the allegations, saying they were "on a hike in the area."
According to available details, the incident began in the early hours of Tuesday morning, when Israeli security forces arrived at Esh Kodesh, an outpost northeast of the Shilo settlement in the Mateh Binyamin Regional Council, to execute a demolition order for two illegal structures.
The operation was completed with no resistance by settlers.
Shortly afterward, however, settlers clashed with Palestinians from the nearby village of Qusra. The Israel Defense Forces and Border Police, which, fearing such clashes, had deployed in the area, were able to disperse the riot.
On Tuesday afternoon, an army surveillance post spotted a group of 15 settlers, some of them masked, heading from Esh Kodesh to Jallud. Suspecting that they were on their way to carry out a price-tag attack, security forces were mobilized to intercept them.
The report of a small riot in the village, of a group of Israelis surrounded by Palestinians, soon followed.
"There was a group of us hiking between Esh Kodesh and Hayovel neighborhood. It's a 4-kilometer [2½-mile] hike that we often go on. I was there only two weeks ago," said Pinhasi Bar-On, a resident of Esh Kodesh who is known as a right-wing activist by the Palestinians living in the area, as well as by the police and Shin Bet security agency.
"The Arabs must have been lying in wait to attack us. When we arrived, a truckload of people came at us. It stopped, the people got off it and started attacking us from the rear. There were dozens of them," he said. "We tried to flee in the direction of Shvut Rachel, but the Arabs surrounded us and isolated us, so we had no choice but to find shelter in a structure in Jallud."
"The Arabs kept throwing rocks at us," Bar-On said. "At some point we were on the floor, with our hands tied and they were beating us. It was a lynch. The Arabs were yelling, taking pictures of us and laughing. We were abused for 20 minutes."
But video footage taken by the Palestinians, as well as by Rabbis for Human Rights activists, paints a different picture, clearly showing several Palestinian men physically shielding the settlers, some of whom were wounded, and getting them to safety.
A Palestinian witness described the scene as "something that could have easily deteriorated into 10 Gilad Schalits, or even a massacre."
Another resident said it was the Palestinians who alerted the IDF. "I don't even want to think about what could have happened to them if the military hadn't come on time," an eyewitness said.
'We won't allow thuggery'
An IDF source told Israel Hayom that security forces that arrived at the village encountered a difficult scene, finding 11 injured settlers surrounded by an angry Palestinian mob, with only a handful of Palestinian men acting as a "human buffer" between them.
Security forces that arrived at the scene extracted the settlers from the village. Seven settlers were questioned by the Judea and Samaria Police for causing a public disturbance and were placed under house arrest.
Four settlers suffering mild injuries were taken to Hadassah Ein Karem Hospital in Jerusalem for treatment.
Officials expressed concerns that the incident might stoke tensions long simmering in the already volatile area. Fearing further escalation, Israeli security forces remained deployed in the area throughout the day.
Defense officials said that had it not been for the six Palestinians who shielded the settlers, the incident could have ended tragically.
Military officials leveled harsh criticism at the settlers for what they called a grave event, prompted by reckless and irresponsible behavior.
The military believes the settlers planned to carry out a price-tag attack, and a senior IDF source said that while Israeli authorities plan to prosecute the settlers involved to the full extent of the law, the Palestinians who assaulted the settlers would also be arrested.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon strongly denounced the so-called price-tag phenomenon Wednesday, saying such acts were akin to acts of terror.
"The phenomenon called 'price-tag' is inherently wrong and I consider it outright terror. We are sparing no effort to find its perpetrators and we will show them zero tolerance. We will act swiftly and without hesitation to eradication this phenomenon."
The State of Israel, Ya'alon said, "cannot afford to tolerate such phenomena, which are illegal and morally and ethically wrong. They mar Israel's [international] image and they inflict significant harm on the settlement enterprise, whose residents are law-abiding citizens, who have nothing to do with these lawless individuals."
The defense minister stressed that the government "will not allow fringe groups or radical, violent individuals to forcibly take over land that don't belong to them, to threaten Palestinian farmers working their land, nor will we allow them to act like thugs and endanger public safety in a way that may also ignite the situation on the ground.
"We will spare no effort to expel them from our midst," Ya'alon said.
On Wednesday, Palestinians from the village of Madama, located near the Yitzhar settlement south of Nablus, reported that a price-tag attack had taken place in the village in the early hours of the morning.
According to Army Radio, security forces who arrived at the village found graffiti reading "Revenge" and "Greeting from Esh Kodesh."
Madama residents reported that four masked men entered the village in the early hours of Wednesday morning, set two cars on fire and defaced one of the village's buildings.
According to Army Radio, eyewitnesses said the group was surprised by a Palestinian man while vandalizing the cars and then attempted to run him over with their car as they fled the scene.
The local District Coordination Office has launched an investigation.
Wednesday morning also saw an Israeli resident of the Judea and Samaria community of Karnei Shomron sustain mild injuries after her car was stoned while traveling on Route 55.
The driver, a 31-year-old mother of four, was driving from Zufim to Kedumim, near the Palestinian village of Kofer Lakef, when her car was stoned, Channel 2 reported. One of the rocks shattered the car's windshield and the woman sustained cuts to her fact from the glass. She was able to reach a nearby checkpoint and the soldiers ensured she was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.
"I had left Karnei Shomron to go to work. I picked up a hitchhiker, a 19-year-old girl, and we were driving along when rocks started flying all over. One rock hit the windshield and we were sprayed with shards of glass. They wanted to kill us. Thank God we weren't seriously hurt," she told Channel 2.
On Tuesday, there was a suspected price-tag attack in Jaffa.
Residents of Jaffa's Bat Yam neighborhood filed a complaint with police saying that the tires of five cars were slashed and that graffiti reading "Arabs = murderers" and "coexistence doesn't exist" was scrawled on the walls of buildings.
The police launched an investigation, but no arrests have been made at this time.
"Arab and Jews living here actually have a great relationship," a neighborhood resident told Israel Hayom. "It's a shame that there are radical groups that try to stir things up, but knowing Jaffa, that won't happen."
Tuesday's incident was not the first price-tag attack in the city: Several months ago, Star of David graffiti was found in a local Christian cemetery, and the tires of several cars parked nearby were slashed.
Stones thrown at Foreign Ministry bus in south
Also on Tuesday, a Foreign Ministry bus touring the south was stoned while traveling near the town of Tel Sheva. The vehicle's rear windshield was smashed, but no injuries were reported.
The bus was carrying several ministry officials, including Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin, Director-General Nissim Ben-Shitrit and Israeli ambassadors.
"This is another example of the intolerable lawlessness of the Bedouin residents in the area. We will deal with this issue with no hesitation," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in response.
Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Yair Shamir, who is heading the government's efforts to regulate Bedouin communities in the Negev, also toured the area on Tuesday.
Shamir said the government will "do everything within its power to establish a close and open dialogue with the Bedouin community."