IDF Central Command chief, Major-General Gadi Shamni, issued three restraining orders against settlers residing in the West Bank settlements of Yitzhar and Adi-Ad, banning them from the area pending the conclusion of the upcoming Palestinian olive harvest.
Early Wednesday morning, the men – all known right-wing activists – were presented with the warrants, banning them from the West Bank from several months.
According to defense establishment sources, the warrants were issued at this time despite the harvest being scheduled for October, since the army had accurate intelligence suggesting the men intend to hinder both the harvest and the preparations for it.
"Around 2 am, my house was surrounded by large police forces, who handed me this warrant, which bans me from my home and Judea and Samaria in general," Meir Bertler of Adi-Ad told Ynet.
Bertler, a father of two whose wife is expecting, denied the army's claims that he was planning to disrupt the coming olive harvest.
"All they (the IDF) want to do is to silence the settlement movement and stop us from forming new outposts and stage marches across Judea and Samaria," he added.
As for the timing, Bertler said that since the harvest was weeks away, "this can't have anything to do with it. We will have to see what we can to against these warrants. This will not be ignored."
'Warrants detrimental to civil rights'
Bertler, along with Akive Hacohen from Yitzhar, has been banned form the area for four months. The IDF is now searching for David Liebman from Adi Ad, in order to serve him with a similar warrant.
Once news of the restraining orders became public, the Yesha Council demanded that they be immediately rescinded: "The Yesha Council firmly objects to such draconian orders. If a person or a group of people is suspected of planning to break the law, it is the law enforcement authorities' right and duty to deal with the matter," a council official said.
Gershon Mesika, head of the Samaria Regional Council, criticized Shamni's decision, saying it was one-sided: "It's regrettable to find that the Arab's olive harvest is more important than the lives of IDF soldiers.
"Nobody issued retraining orders against left-wing activist who risk soldiers' lives in Naalin or Bil'in. This decision is detrimental to the civil rights of the people in this country," he said.
Head of the Jewish National Front, Baruch Marzel, reiterated the sentiment: "It's amazing to see the policy the Shin Bet and the police choose to apply to settlers and right-wing activists. We have never heard of similar warrant being issued against left-wing activists who riot in Naalin."