Settlers vandalize Israeli military base in West Bank
Published Tuesday 13/12/2011 (updated) 13/12/2011 23:22
Israeli settlers are pictured at a protest near the city of Tulkarem.
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Over 50 settlers infiltrated an Israeli military base near Tulkarem early Tuesday, the army said.
Right wing settlers set fire to tires, vandalized vehicles and placed nails along the road at the Ephraim regional division headquarters. They also threw stones at the base commander's vehicle, the army said in a statement.
No injuries were reported and the army and Israeli police managed to remove settlers from the area, the military added.
The army condemned the violence as "extremely severe" but vowed continue to enforce the law in "Judea and Samaria," the name the Israeli government uses for the West Bank.
"These are criminals, Jewish terrorists who are harming the security of Israel," Israel Civil Defense Minister Matan Vilnai told Army Radio.
Israeli Army Spokesman Yoav Mordechai told Army Radio there had been a string of "grave incidents" in the West Bank after rumors spread of an imminent eviction of settlement outposts.
"Dozens of right wing activists threw stones at Palestinian and Israeli army vehicles," Mordechai said, after which they entered an army base, "cursed, threw paint bottles, punctured army vehicle tires and smashed a car window".
In a separate incident, a group of hardline settlers crossed into a military zone close to the border with Jordan late Monday evening to demonstrate against Jordanian protests over an Israeli decision to shut a footbridge at Jerusalem's holiest site.
Mordechai said he thought the incursion next to the Jordan border and the subsequent attack on the army base near Tulkarem were connected.
"I don't believe in coincidences. I think that to mobilize over 100 people takes organization. ...We will not allow such disturbances with people taking the law into their own hands," he said.
In July, Israeli settlers vandalized an Israeli army base in the first reported case of "price tag" attacks carried out against Israeli forces.
The perpetrators sprayed "graffiti against (Israeli military) commanders and against dismantling of structures in the Jewish community of Migron," an army statement said.
Settler attacks against Israeli military infrastructure in the West Bank are extremely rare and would represent a worrying development for Israel's army.
Settler violence against Palestinians is very common in the West Bank, however, with perpetrators rarely held accountable by the Israeli legal system.
Under what settler leaders have called a "price-tag" policy, settlers attack Palestinians and their property in retaliation for the Israeli government's occasional curbs on settlement activity.
Some 500,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. There are about 2.5 million Palestinians in the same territory.
All settlements are considered illegal under international law.
Reuters contributed to this report.