Photo: Judea and Samaria Police
Police car attacked in Yitzhar
Photo: Judea and Samaria Police
Photo: AFP
Yitzhar (Archive photo)
Photo: AFP
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Avi Dichter. Ready for dialogue
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Yesha leaders at Knesset
Photo: Gil Yohanan

Police nab 3 Yitzhar settlers, detain rabbi

Police arrest three Yitzhar settlers on suspicion they assaulted policemen at settlement earlier Wednesday, detain head of local yeshiva for questioning. Locals charge police were irresponsible to enter community after 'inflaming tensions' with residents in recent months

Police arrested three settlers of Yitzhar on Wednesday on suspicion of attacking policemen in the West Bank settlement earlier in the day.


Police said the three were arrested after being identified by police officers who suffered a hail of stones upon entering the settlement. The men have been remanded for interrogation. Rabbi Hoshaya Harari, head of one of the settlement's yeshivas, was also detained for questioning.


Dozens of teens attacked on Wednesday police officers that arrived at the settlement of Yitzhar on a tour to inspect security arrangements of educational facilities in the place.


The settlers, some of them masked, hurled stones at the policemen and caused damage to a police car.


Sources at the "Od Yosef Chai" yeshiva in Yizthar told Ynet in response to the arrest: "The yeshiva protests the lies concocted by the police regarding what took place here. The police were irresponsible to enter the community after they have been 'inflaming tensions' with residents at the settlement as a whole, and specifically with the yeshiva in recent months, by arresting head of the yeshiva, Rabbi Yizhak Shapira, and other people."


"The yeshiva considers the conduct of the policeman, who after exiting the community stopped his car and shot as the students, to be extremely severe," one of the yeshiva's head added.


'Like being in Nablus'


Commander Shaul Gabai, a security officer at the Samaria and Judea police, recounted the incident: "Dozens of masked men ran towards us wearing kafiyahs (Arab headscarfs), it was like being in Nablus or Jenin. The settlers surrounded us and we were outnumbered and at a significant disadvantage: The three of us standing on a road at the foot of a hill, while dozens of settlers stood on the hilltop above us."  


The officers had to fire warning shots into the air in order to free themselves from the raging crowd. A police force was also called to the scene, and promptly launched a search to apprehend the stone throwers. Police officials said that the policemen's patrol "was aimed at looking after the safety and wellbeing of the community's students."


Commander Gabai described to Ynet the events that took place at Yitzhar: "We arrived, three officers, to the settlement at around 1:30 p.m. in order to inspect the work civilian security guards were performing in educational facilities."


"We entered the community and stood next to the yeshiva. A man whom we believed to be the headmaster approached us and asked what we were doing there. We identified ourselves as policemen and said we came there to conduct an inspection of the security at the place. Then he told us: 'Don’t you know that the police shouldn’t come here?' I said I wish to meet the security guard," Gabai said.


According to Commander Gabai, "at a certain point that man moved aside, and then within a minute dozens of masked men wearing kafiyahs ran towards a terrace nearby, and started throwing bricks and stones at us. They also damaged the car and smashed the windows."


"One of the officers who were sitting inside the car sustained injury to his hand from a stone that was thrown at him. They also punctured the car's tires. We withdrew in order to find a better position, while more and more youngsters kept arriving at the place," he recounted.


"We ran outside the settlement, and they surrounded us. One of the policemen shot a bullet in the air out of distress. If it hadn't been for that, someone would have gotten hurt. The feeling was awful. I don't call these people settlers, these masked stone throwers are criminals," Gabai stated.


The Samaria and Judea police chief, Major General Yisrael Yizthak, told Ynet: "The assault of policemen and the causing of damage to police property is a very serious act. We shall do whatever is in our power to bring the law breakers to justice."


Police officials stressed that they expect the Yitzhar leadership to denounce the rioters, "in order to prevent tarnishing an entire community."


Dichter meets with settler leaders


Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer said in response to the events: "The settlers' rioting in Yitzhar is the answer to Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter's moderate statements. Instead of meeting with the settler leaders, who are behind the law breaking in the illegal outposts, Dichter should enforce the law firmly and evacuate the outposts immediately."


Oppenheimer was referring in his statement to a meeting held between Dichter and heads of the Yesha Council on Wednesday, aimed at discussing the anticipated pullout from the West Bank.


The meeting, which took place at Dichter's office at the Knesset, was branded by the minister's associates as "positive and good." Dichter vowed to the settler leaders that dialogue would precede any future evacuation.


"The Yesha heads came to ask for dialogue and we are willing to engage in talks," sources close to the minister said. "For us, today's meeting was the first step in this dialogue, and there are likely to be more meetings in the future," they added.


The meeting was initiated by the settler leadership, after the issue of the illegal outposts was once again put on the government's agenda. Yesha Council Chairman Bentzi Liberman, Binyamin Regional Council Head Avner Shimoni, Southern Mount Hebron Regional Council Head Tzviki Bar Chai, Amana movement Secretary-General Zeev Hever and Knesset Member Uri Ariel took part in the meeting.


The Yesha leaders also met with Justice Minister Haim Ramon earlier this week, and agreed to keep an open channel of communication between the Ministry and the settlers.


Ilan Marciano contributed to the report


פרסום ראשון: 05.31.06, 16:19
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