Six Border Guard officers and five settlers were lightly injured before sunrise Thursday during an evacuation and demolition of four structures in the West Bank outpost of Ali Ayin. Three settlers were arrested for rioting.
The settlers claim police used excess force, beat them, and used stun grenades unnecessarily. Police claim special forces officers who were assisting the Civil Authority with demolitions came up against massive resistance, which included the blocking of roads and stone-throwing.
Stun grenade found (Photo: Binyamin Settlers' Committee)
Just a few hours after the evacuation, a firebomb was thrown at a vehicle belonging to the commander of the Binyamin region police station, burning it to the ground. No one was hurt, but police say they regard the incident as highly serious.
"This incident marks an increase in violence," a police source said.
Police say settlers prepared for the evacuation by blocking the roads leading to the outpost, forcing the officers to make their way by foot and delaying the operation.
But the settlers say just a few dozen residents resisted at the scene, and passively. "The officers attacked us although we were lying down. We did not resist or engage in any acts of violence or assault," Alex Ostrovsky, of the Hilltop Youth, told Ynet.
"A guy next to me was injured in the head, and another guy took a stone to the eye. A stun grenade went off between my legs and I was burned when my pants caught fire."
Ostrovsky added that the officers who were injured hurt each other in the fray.
Meir Bartler, of the Hilltop Youth's leaders, claims police crossed a red line Thursday and behaved in a "cowardly and perverse" fashion. He added that the deputy commander of Binyamin District Police, who commanded the operation, is now persona non-grata in the area.
"The outpost of Ali Ayin will be built anew in a more extensive manner and we are certain that these events will not succeed in harming the process of building in Israel. Just the opposite, this will cause more construction and the establishment of additional outposts in Judea and Samaria."
Chairman of the Binyamin Settlers Committee, Itzik Shadmi, criticized the defense minister for the evacuation.
"Ehud Barak is jealous of the applause Netanyahu got from the US and has apparently decided to remind everyone that he also knows how to harm Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria," Shadmi said.
"It would be better for him to use violence and weapons to destroy the homes of Israel's enemies, and let the settlers live their lives," he added.
"For many months the residents of Ali Ayin have been suffering from Arab bullying and mischief, and it's too bad Barak has decided to join them."