"We were certain that the evacuation had begun. People were frustrated, helpless. They hurled stones at Palestinian vehicles, and suddenly the brigade commander's vehicle arrived. A number of youngsters who don't even live here opened the door and threw a cinderblock inside." This is how one of the rightists who took part in the riots near the Ramat Gilad outpost in the West Bank overnight Tuesday described the mayhem.
Speaking to Ynet Tuesday night, the right-wing activist said hundreds of youngsters and dozens of adults from all over the country travelled to the area ahead of the outpost's possible evacuation. "People came from Afula, Jerusalem, Haifa, Dimona and the surrounding communities. At some point we spotted police squad cars heading towards Ramat Gilad. There was tension in the air. The youths started running towards the forces," he recounted.
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The activist stressed that the incident was spontaneous. "The IDF spokesman's claim that the events were planned and intentional is false. The rage and despair got out of control. No one wanted things to end the way they did," he told Ynet.
The rightist complemented Ephraim Brigade Commander Colonel Ran Kahane, who was injured in the incident. "He is a decent and serious man. It's a shame this happened. I regret what happened, though I personally did not raise a hand on anyone. All this is happening because we are being pushed into a corner.
"It is a shame we've reached a point where I have to clash with my brothers when we serve in the same army," said the rightist.
Itai Zar, one of the founders of the Havat Gilad outpost, said settlers were against hurting IDF soldiers. "We love the soldiers, who do god's work. I served in the Givati Brigade and took part in Operation Cast Lead as a reservist."
A settler leader who asked to remain anonymous condemned the rioters and called for harsher measures against them. "We have to ask ourselves why this is happening," he said.
The settler leader claimed the disengagement from Gaza and the 2006 evacuation of the West Bank settlement of Amona were partly to blame: "Our youth has been slapped in the face by the State, and they are not willing to be trampled on any longer. After the disengagement, our youth was highly disappointed from their leadership, for cooperating with state authorities and in effect with the destruction of the Gush Katif communities."
He also noted that those who took part in the riots also serve in the IDF. "We must remember that these are good kids, our finest sons. They enlist in the most elite combat units. This was an act of disapproval and protest against the disgrace that we've been subjected to. We are against harming IDF soldiers, but it happened," he said.
Meanwhile, the government and security establishment are holding discussions on exacerbating penal sanctions against extremist elements in the West Bank. Among the measures being considered is the removal of activists from the area based on prior intelligence.