Israeli police were on high alert yesterday after settlers vowed revenge for the forced evacuation of dozens of radical Jews from a disputed house in the southern West Bank city of Hebron.
Jewish settlers in the divided city plastered pamphlets on walls, calling for a “week of revenge” against Thursday’s eviction by Israeli security forces, which was carried out violently and left at least 25 police and settlers injured, Israeli media reported.
Hebron’s settlers, meanwhile, vowed to continue their method of “wearing out” the Israeli authorities and security forces by returning again and again to a number of buildings in the city from which they have been evacuated in the past.
They briefly reoccupied another abandoned building and market in the city center late on Thursday, until they were forced out by police.
Radical Israeli youths also went on a rampage in the evening throughout the city, vandalizing Palestinian property by throwing stones and lighting fires. The fires damaged cars and at least one house in which a local family was taking cover.
As other rioters fired into the air, one settler opened fire into a Palestinian house, injuring three Palestinians, including an elderly father and his adult son who were reported to be in serious condition, witnesses said.
A settler leader told Israel Radio yesterday morning that the American Jew who had purchased the evacuated “House of Contention” had telephoned him and pledged to buy more buildings in Hebron to cement the Jewish presence in the “city of our forefathers.”
The Biblical city is divided into an Israeli and a Palestinian-controlled part under a 1998 agreement. Between 600 and 800 Jews, heavily protected by Israeli soldiers, live among roughly 200,000 Palestinians in what is the largest West Bank city, sparking deep tensions.
The tensions have boiled over during the past two weeks, after Israel’s supreme court ordered the Israeli government to evict the Jewish tenants from the “House of Contention” until a lower court rules on who is its rightful owner.
Large numbers of hardline Israelis had since flocked to the city to prevent the eviction, which Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered to take place on Thursday after last-ditch talks with settlers’ leaders failed to produce a voluntary evacuation.