Following two incidents of tire slashing of Israel Defense Forces vehicles in the last two days, violent clashes broke out early Tuesday morning in Yitzhar when security forces began demolishing illegal structures. The reserve soldiers carrying out the demolition were attacked by settlers who had showed up in the hundreds to protest the move. Six border policemen and four settlers were injured in the clashes.
In the early hours of Tuesday morning, Civil Administration and border policemen arrived in Yitzhar to carry out the demolition of four illegal buildings and to seize a fifth illegal structure. Two of the buildings destroyed were populated by Yitzhar residents. The five illegal buildings included one permanent home, two caravans and two shops. The protesting residents threw stones at security forces and burned tires.
In response to the attacks from the settlers, border policemen used tear gas. The settler community reported four injuries from tear gas inhalation and other wounds. A reportedly empty army position in the area was also destroyed in the clashes.
The IDF released a statement in response to the violence, saying, "We take very seriously attacks on security forces that came to do their job and to enforce law and order."
Yitzhar's spokesman said, "The policy of demolition and collective punishment by the authorities is outrageous. It is unreasonable that the government of Israel and the security forces destroy the houses of those innocent of revenge crimes like the price tag [crimes], serious as they may be, because of the illegitimate actions of a lone few. We call upon the security system and those who lead it to put an end to this policy and to immediately stop the growing cycle of hostility."
Shomron Regional Council head Gershon Mesika said, "Unfortunately, it seems that this is a price tag attack perpetrated by the security system against the residents of Yitzhar. It goes without saying that we do not live under a dictatorship and that collective punishment is not only harmful and unacceptable, but that it is ineffective and causes damage. Instead of the security system doing its job and finding those who are guilty, it harms the innocent, only strengthening the extremists and weakening the moderate majority of Yitzhar's residents."
Following recent incidents in Yitzhar and concerns of price tag attacks on Palestinians, security forces are remaining in the area to prevent settlers from carrying out revenge attacks. Palestinians in the nearby town of Burin have already reported that a number of settlers tried to approach one of the houses on the outskirts of the town and even rolled burning tires towards it, but the IDF prevented the tires from reaching the town.
The growing hostility in Yitzhar comes on the heels of a second vandalism attack on an IDF vehicle in as many days, and the third such attack in three months. After Samaria Brigade Commander Col. Yoav Yarom's car on Sunday had its tires slashed for the second time, another IDF vehicle had its tires slashed on Monday during a reserves tour of the village. The Judea and Samaria district police opened an investigation into the incident.
The IDF Spokesperson's Unit released a statement saying, "The IDF takes this type of incident very seriously. Harming IDF commanders and their soldiers, who work day and night to protect the residents of the state of Israel, is crossing a red line."
Yitzhar's spokesman expressed opposition to the act, and an IDF Judea and Samaria Division official said, "It is really unfortunate that people in the reserves, who volunteer to protect the settlers, are treated with such ingratitude."
Hours before Monday's incident, the Jerusalem magistrate's court released the youth arrested in connection with the slashing of Yarom's tires on Sunday. Judge Mordechai Kaduri rejected the police request to extend his arrest.
The suspect, 16, was arrested by investigators from the Nationalist Crimes Division of the Judea and Samaria District Police. During his investigation, he claimed that he had not been in Yitzhar when the crime was carried out.
The police chose to appeal the court's decision, and there will be a hearing in two days.
Meanwhile, former Yesha Council Chairman Dani Dayan said in an interview with radio station Galei Yisrael, "If eradicating this phenomenon means 50 people or more have to sit in administrative detention, so be it."
Samaria Residents' Committee head Benny Katzover responded sharply to Dayan's words, saying, "This kind of talk weakens the settler movement."