JERUSALEM – JERUSALEM (AP) — Ultranationalist Israeli settlers on Thursday surrounded a Palestinian home near a West Bank settlement and hurled rocks through windows to avenge a string of early morning arrests by Israeli police.
Residents of the Yitzhar settlement, in the northern West Bank, marched through the neighboring Palestinian village of Hawara in a show of anger over what they said was a police campaign against them. Yitzhar is among the most radical settlements in the West Bank, and its residents have scuffled with Israeli forces several times in recent weeks.
Friction is common between the 2.5 million Palestinians and 300,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967.
Palestinians view the more than 120 settlements that Israel has built across the West Bank as a key obstacle to setting up their own state. Hardline settlers, including residents of Yitzhar, believe they are returning to lands promised to the Jews by God.
The latest unrest occurred hours after soldiers raided Yitzhar and arrested seven settlers, including three minors, for unspecified "disturbances," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
Yitzhar settler Avraham Binyamin said Israeli police detained the settlers for 10 or 15 minutes at around 4:30 a.m.
After police attempted to arrest another settler later Thursday morning, a group of Yitzhar residents tried to block them, then later marched to Hawara "to demonstrate against the crusade that the police are enacting," Binyamin said.
Palestinian villagers said the settlers fled only after people inside the house called for help through a loudspeaker and a crowd of Palestinians converged on the area. Israeli soldiers later arrived on the scene to keep the sides separated.
Binyamin said the violent demonstration was part of what the settlers call their "price tag" policy — going after Palestinian targets to avenge Israeli police actions against the settlers. Settlers have repeatedly attacked Palestinian farmland, and are suspected in a recent vandalism attack on a West Bank mosque.
Thursday's arrests followed a week of tension after Yitzhar residents beat and lightly wounded an Israeli soldier and slashed the tires of military vehicles.
Two more minors were arrested during the disturbances on Thursday, Rosenfeld said.
The Israeli army announced plans to increase protection for Palestinian villages near Yitzhar, Army Radio reported Thursday.