Israeli forces take over Yitzhar Jewish seminary after clashes
Published Friday 11/04/2014 (updated) 13/04/2014 10:21
Israeli police officers control the road leading to the settlement of Yitzhar
near Nablus, on April 11, 2014 (AFP/Jack Guez)
YITZHAR, West Bank (AFP) -- Israel's military on Friday occupied a Jewish seminary in an extremist West Bank settlement after a series of clashes between settlers and security forces there.
"Following the recent increase in violence towards security forces, and in order to address ongoing security concerns, (the army) positioned a company of border police in the Yitzhar yeshiva building," it said in a statement.
"The structure was chosen based on security needs to prevent violence and vandalism targeting security personnel and the adjacent villages, originating from the area of the yeshiva," the army said.
The seizure order was valid until June 15.
The measure comes after 15 Yitzhar residents were arrested for allegedly stoning security forces and demolishing a military post in the northern West Bank settlement.
Israel's security establishment reacted by vowing to take severe measures.
The Yitzhar settlement called the seminary move "hysterical and historic."
"Turning a yeshiva into a military base is crossing a red line," a statement said, charging that a nearby mosque with a pending demolition order still stood and calling on the government to "leave the yeshiva immediately."
A statement from the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva itself condemned what it called the "desecration" of the holy place's sanctity.
An AFP correspondent said the army has closed off the entrance to Yitzhar, setting up roadblocks and limiting access to residents only.
The area around the villages south of Nablus is a frequent site of settler violence and Palestinian clashes with Israeli forces as it is located beside the notoriously violent Israeli settlement of Yitzhar.
Settlers frequently attack a number of local villages and prevent farmers from reaching their lands, according to UNOCHA, in addition to attacks on local olive trees themselves.
Attacks by settlers on Israeli forces, however, are much rarer.