West Bank soldiers: We guard settlers; they spit us in the face
Soldiers serving in West Bank face animosity from settlers they are assigned to protect. Following vandalism to IDF officer's car while he was meeting with settlement representatives, soldiers express sense of betrayal, asking 'How can you harm those who guard you and put their lives at risk for you?'
Following the Friday incident in which the tires of the Samaria Brigade chief, Brig. Gen. Yoav Yarom, were slashed while he was in a meeting with the head of the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, IDF soldiers serving in the West Bank expressed frustration regarding the double bind into which they are forced.
"When you see soldiers who serve with you not going home for the weekend and go to Yitzhar so they can meet with the settlement's leaders and discuss ways to protect the settlement, and right there and then the brigade's chief's car is vandalized – no where is safe. Not a Palestinian village and not an isolated outpost," an IDF combat soldier told Ynet.
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Soldiers serving in the West Bank are perceived as the enemy by both Palestinians in the region and settlers. "How can you harm those who guard you and put their lives at risk for you?" the combat soldier asked.
"We are here 24/7 – patrolling, guarding, arresting suspects – and this (vandalizing of the officer's vehicle) was just a spit in the face," the soldier added, referring to the.
Another soldier, however, stressed that "we must make the distinction between settlers of Itamar, Har Brakha and other settlements who make us feel at home, and those hooligans."
As for vandalistic settlers, he said, "they control soldiers, officers, and Palestinians. Some soldiers are wary of going on some of the outposts and prefer to go on other assignments, because it's unsettling to protect Palestinians from Jews who can target their attacks on you as well."
Yarom was meeting with representatives of the Nablus-adjacent settlement to discuss the recent friction in the last week between settlers and Palestinians near Yitzhar. After the meeting he returned to his jeep, which was parked inside the settlement, and found his tires were punctured. The Shai Region police are investigating the incident.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon responded to the act of vandalism, saying "This is an intolerable incident, which requires determined response… Damaging the officer's car is a heinous act that was perpetrated by a group of outlaws who belong behind bars."
The IDF Spokesperson's Unit stated that the military "finds such incidents against IDF officers and soldiers, who are working day and night to protect the residents of the State of Israel, outrageous."
The committee of Yitzhar residents said in response: "Despite seious disagreements on several issues with the Samaria Brigade chief, such acts do not serve any goal and are unacceptable."
The committee added that the Samaria Council "condemns any harm done to IDF soldiers, surely targeting a brigade chief that was here to offer help. Locals helped repair the damaged tire and apologized for the incident."
Clashes between settlers and Palestinians occured earlier this week, in the Ourif and Qusra villages, on Wednesday and Tuesday respectively, both incidents ending in injuries.