Sneh blames Hebron Jews for violenceBy Amos Harel and Nadav Shragai
Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said during a tour of Hebron yesterday that the settlers there bear more responsibility than the city's Palestinians for the violent incidents that have erupted in recent months.
Speaking to reporters after he was briefed by Central Command officers, Sneh said, "To my regret, from what I've learned it is in fact certain elements within the [Jewish] community who have increased the number of violent acts of late."
He added that he wished to avoid generalizations and that he was speaking of "a few people within the community - either they or their children who have been educated in a certain manner."
The YESHA settlers council denounced Sneh's remarks as wicked and baseless, calling them the absolute opposite of the facts. "It is the Jews of Hebron more than others who have fallen victim to the Arabs' violence, from the 1929 riots until today," the council said.
Hebron settler spokesman Noam Arnon said Sneh "vilifies the pioneers of Hebron every chance he gets and is now continuing in his perverse ways, voicing lies, libeling and slandering the city's Jews."
Right-wingers jeered Sneh yesterday during his heavily-guarded visit to the settler neighborhood of Tel Rumeida, among them former Kach movement leader Baruch Marzel, who called Sneh "liar," "communist" and "traitor" and prevented him from touring the compound.
The Central Command officers told Sneh that there was a relatively good level of coordination between the army and Palestinian security authorities in Hebron. They said tension had primarily arisen after small-scale incidents, most instigated by extremists among the settlers.
The situation has changed over the last several months as Palestinians have been responding with violence rather than restraining themselves when attacked, sparking wider clashes, they said.
The officers said they had been unable to substantiate some of the settlers claims that Palestinians had sexually harassed young Jewish women in Hebron and had attacked and tried to run over settler men.
The officers did confirm that two Palestinian youths had been arrested last week on suspicion of attempting to sexually harass IDF Military Policewomen on duty in Hebron. They also noted a case in which a settler had slapped an IDF soldier who was about to arrest the settler's son.
The IDF spokesman's office said that it had investigated the incident
described in an August 10 Ha'aretz article about five soldiers injured by
marbles thrown by Hebron settlers. The spokesman said that they had no
knowledge of such an incident.