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IDF Forms New West Bank Command Unit to Confront Violent Settlers

Settler violence has been on the rise in the West Bank in recent months. To confront it more effectively, the military commander of the West Bank has formed a new command unit, bringing together the various agencies that take part in law enforcement in the West Bank. Here is a story from today's edition of Ma'ariv on this issue: 

IDF Central Command Unit to Confront Extreme Settlers

Ma'ariv, 23 September, 2009

by Amir Buhbut

Officers in the Central Command criticized the conduct of the Samaria Brigade Commander Col. Itzik Bar towards extreme right wing activist following the violent incidents against soldiers and other security forces. The harsh criticism reached the ears of OC Central Command Maj. Gen. Gadi Shamni, who in turn ordered the establishment of a special headquarters combined of the army, the police and the Border Police which he assigned with focusing on extreme right wing activists and points of potential friction.

   In recent weeks violent behavior against security forces by right wing activist has increased. "These are incidents that we consider to be crossing a red line," said one officer in Central Command, "and this includes displays of violence in every evacuation of an illegal outpost, such as kicking an officer in the face and throwing a firebomb at an IDF jeep, even though the settlers deny it. This morning, for example, spikes were placed on a road used by military vehicles, and suspicions focus on extreme right wing activists."

   "You can't shut your eyes when right wing activists do whatever they like," adds another Central Command officer, "the Samaria Brigade commander ought to have acted forcefully against anyone who dared lift his hand on a policeman or soldier. He was soft, and should have instructed soldiers to forcefully intervene and to arrest on the spot any right wing extremist who resorted to violence. The result is that these very activists were not arrested and are still about and nobody has any idea when the next violent event will take place. It will soon be olive picking season and if this impotency is allowed to continue, the violence of right wing activist against the Palestinian may reach new heights."

   Following this criticism, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, as stated earlier, decided to establish the new headquarters. A military source confirmed the details and said, "this is a unit that will be comprised of combat soldiers, among these Border Police, which will provide a professional response to incidents in which there is friction between security forces and right wing activists. The response will be clear and incisive and will result in arrests if need be." It has further been learned that police forces will be added to the special headquarters. These will assist in collecting evidence against the suspects, so to bring them to trial.

   According to one of the officers in Central Command, there is, as of yet, no recommendation distance right wing activist from the area, as was done last year. "These are people with no formal leadership, and this makes it all the more difficult to handle them seeing that each one seems to act on his own accord," explained the officer.