Settlers had uncommonly harsh words for the IDF's conduct on Thursday following a day of violent clashes in the West Bank. The most scathing criticism, however, was directed not towards the army's
behavior during the evacuation of the Adi-Ad outpost, but rather its portrayal of the settlers in the media.
"We're not the IDF's punching bag," they proclaimed, pointing towards several instances throughout the day when the army accused settlers of violently attacking soldiers. The settlers vehemently denied troops were assaulted, and threatened to sue the army for libel.
In one such incident, the army said a settler seized an assault rifle from a soldier near the settlement of Shiloh and fired several rounds in the air.
However after arresting the two men accused of being involved in the shooting incident, police determined that their lives had genuinely been in danger at the time and that their car had sustained considerable damage from rocks thrown at them by Palestinian rioters. The two were released immediately thereafter.
In response to the claim regarding the rifle, the 'Homesh First' organization's headquarters said the man in question was an air-conditioning technician from Jerusalem who was heading from the settlement of Kedumim to Itamar. He was attacked by dozens of Palestinians who pelted his car with rocks and attempted to lynch him, Homesh First said, he then ran to a group of soldiers standing nearby who were doing nothing, took the weapon of a soldier, fired in the air and then gave it back.
Itai Zer, one of the founders of the Havat Gilad outpost, warned that from now on there would be "a price tag" for evacuations.
"Every time there is an evacuation of any sort – and it doesn't matter if it's a bus or a caravan or a small outpost – we will respond," he said.
'Settlers beat farmers, torched fields'
In a second incident being contested by the settlers, the army said that during an altercation with a group of settlers at Havat Gilad, one of the settlers pulled out a knife and pressed it to a soldier's neck in threat. The settler thensnatched the soldier's helmet and fled the scene. The soldier was unharmed.
Military officials told Ynet that the incident was viewed severely and would be dealt with. "A red line has been crossed here, this is very serious," they said.
But at Havat Gilad, the settlers denied one of their group had threatened a soldier with a knife.
They confirmed however that a helmet had been stolen from the soldiers and said it would be returned to the military.
Zer, who named Havat Gilad after his brother, who was killed in a terror attack, told Ynet the army's claims "are utter lies. There were two witnesses here – one of them the regional security officer and the other one a lawyer. They both say the helmet being taken from the soldier, but there were no threats made with a knife. Therefore, we intend to sue the IDF Spokesman's Office."
This is only the most recent in a series of violent incidents reported in the region on Thursday following the evacuation of a bus from the Adi-Ad outpost.
The Palestinians claim that during the day's clashes some 150 settlers attacked Palestinian farmers in the village of Burin, damaging crops and property. The Palestinians also said that the settlers had set fire to agricultural fields. "There is a full fledged pogrom against the (Palestinian) residents here," a local Palestinian farmer told Ynet, "and the IDF soldiers who see all this happen and are doing nothing."
The Yesh Din human rights group said in response that "the security forces' helplessness when in comes to enforcing the law and dealing with violent settlers in facilitating the creation of a terror infrastructure in the West Bank."