"In recent days we see radical elements assaulting IDF and defense establishment personnel," Olmert said. "I ordered security forces to act decisively to prevent the continuation of this phenomenon."
"The State of Israel is a law-abiding country and whoever raises a hand against defense establishment members will be punished in the most severe manner," the acting prime minister warned.
However, settlers on Sunday vowed to make the task of evacuating illegal West Bank outposts an uphill battle for security forces should the government go ahead with plans to remove three outposts in the Nablus area.
Earlier, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz announced plans to evacuate the three outposts, which security forces believe are inhabited by extreme-right elements, including settlers who cut down hundreds of olive trees belonging to Palestinians in the area.
“The same people who cut down trees belonging to Palestinians are a dissident group, well-organized, and bordering on terror. It is a group of very very dangerous people and there is nothing I want more than apprehending them,” a senior IDF officer told Ynet earlier.
The three outposts scheduled for evacuation are HaChava Shel Skaly, near Elon Moreh, Gi'va 725, near Yitzhar, and Giv'at Arusi, near Bracha.
Large troops have been prepared to take part in the evacuation as the Ministry of Defense anticipates violent clashes.
Ronen Arusi, arrested in August 2003 on suspicion of belonging to a terror group, set up Givat Arusi. Arusi and nine other settlers were arrested on suspicion that they orchestrated the killing of nine Palestinians but he was later released.
'We don't believe in democracy'
Dozens of young settlers live in Giv'at Arusi. Their main activities revolve around agriculture, building and Torah studies. The army attaches strategic importance to the hill on which Givat Arusi lies as it dominates Palestinian villages and the Ariel a – Tapuach road.
HaChava Shel Skaly was established in the nineties when then Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Sharon called on settlers to reinforce their hold on strategic hills in the West Bank. A handful of young settlers and their families live on the hill, growing crops and sheep.
“We believe neither in democracy nor in the behavior of the Israeli authorities, but even for those who believe in the system this is a a scandalous decision. It is collective punishment in light of claims by Arabs next door that their trees had been cut down. Where are the High Court of Justice and human rights organizations?” angry settlers told Ynet.
“The clashes we saw over the weekend will be nothing compared to what will happen should someone try to evacuate the three hills,” one settler threatened.
Meanwhile, even though defense minister Mofaz announced delays in the evacuation and demolition of buildings in the Amona outpost, settlers distributed leaflets in synagogues around the country calling on the general public to join hundreds of settlers in Amonan to avert the evacuation.
Settlers set up a tent near Amona where Torah lessons are held and food is sold. Organizers vowed to offer stiff resistance to evacuation forces.
Efrat Weiss contributed to the story