A Palestinian officer on Thursday assaulted an IDF soldier who was on a routine patrol in Hebron following clashes that erupted after the soldiers tried to arrest a suspect in the city.
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Following the clashes, dozens of Palestinians started hurling stones at the soldiers who were forced to escape the scene while hurling shock grenades. There were no injuries.
The unusual incident occurred while an IDF force was on a foot patrol in Hebron's market area. The soldiers tried to arrest a man connected to the Palestinian police and soon an argument between the officers and the troops broke out, later turning physical.
The army said that during the clashes one of the Palestinian officers punched a Nahal combatant, who did not require medical care.
Palestinians who witnessed the event started hurling stones at the soldiers and as their numbers grew the troops were left with no other choice but to flee the scene while calling for backup. The forces hurled a shock grenade to create a buffer zone between them and the Palestinian officers, the IDF said.
Troops were on routine patrol (Photo: Reuters)
Other forces called to the scene were also assaulted by Palestinians who gathered in the area. Meanwhile, a riot involving Palestinian officers broke out at another location in the city.
Army officials said the IDF views with great severity the Palestinian officers' involvement and added that the incident will be investigated.
Soldiers clash with Palestinians (Photo: EPA)
Unrest in Hebron (Photo: EPA)
An initial investigation by the IDF's Judea and Samaria Division reveals that the incident was local. Six soldiers were patrolling the H1 area, which runs parallel to the Palestinian controlled Area A. The patrol, which was on foot, was inside the safety perimeter of the near-by Jewish settlement, an area which had previously been used for recent terror activity and stone throwing.
The soldiers, headed by the company commander, ran into Palestinian officers who demanded that they not pass through that specific route. The soldiers refused and the situation deteriorated as pushes and shoves where exchanged, quickly leading to a soldier getting punched in the face.
The clashes come a week after the UN's General Assembly voted to upgrade the Palestinian Authority's status to non-member observer state.
Israel in response announced a decision to advance the construction of 3,000 housing units in area E1 connecting Jerusalem and the West Bank. This could disrupt the contiguity of a future Palestinian state. It was also decided to freeze the transfer of Palestinian tax money.
No change on the ground
Despite the incident, relations and communication between the IDF and the Palestinian security forces are expected to continue as usual. Immediately after the event senior officers in the IDF's Judea and Samaria Division contacted their Palestinians counterparts, and made clear to them that the incident is unacceptable.
Nonetheless, the mutual impression was that the event was not a planned attack by the Palestinian officers, and hence the IDF will continue enforcement in the area as well as maintaining a sovereign presence in Palestinian cities and villages.
During the last few years, which were considered very calm in West Bank terms, IDF soldiers have undertaken numerous patrols in the area. Commanders of the Territorial Brigade continue to hold open dialogue with their Palestinian counterparts, even in the shadow of Operation Pillar of Defense and its aftermath.
All the while, arrests of terror suspects, mostly from Hamas, continue, with some even being brought into custody by Palestinian forces, albeit only a small fraction.
At this stage the IDF does not plan to stop patrolling the Palestinian areas surrounding the Jewish settlement in Hebron, however the form of the patrols and operations might be reconsidered, in accordance with the escalation in the West Bank; which has, according to Shin Bet records, brought about some 120 different terror attacks in the West Bank and Jerusalem during the last month.
Yoav Zitun contributed to this report
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