A major clash between Jewish protesters and Israel police forces took place this morning in Beit El following the destruction of a youth clubhouse. Over 30 were left wounded.
A busload of Border Guard policemen came out to Beit El Tuesday morning to protect Civil Administration personnel destroying a small structure. The one-room shack, measuring five-by-five meters, had been built by the town's youth a few months ago in protest of the construction freeze and was used intermittently as a youth club. It stood behind the offices of Arutz-7, out of sight and mind of most of the town's residents.Another group of youths and adults made their way back to the site of the destroyed structure, starting to rebuild it even as the police forces were still there.
A bulldozer knocked down the walls around 9 a.m. without warning and without opposition. However, by the time the forces attempted to leave, dozens of youths had blocked their way - sitting on the street in front of the bus, and placing two large trash bins in their path behind them. They succeeded in blocking them for almost two hours, until the police began using clubs and tear gas to "break the siege." Police arrested four protesters during the operation.
"30 protestors were wounded and two had to be evacuated for further medical treatment," Magen David Adom's Moshe Eliyah told Israel National News.
A group of youths and adults made their way back to the site of the destroyed structure, starting to rebuild it even as the police forces were still there.
The bulldozer destroyed the walls, and started on the concrete floor but abandoned the job after a few minutes. The town's Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed and Mayor Moshe Rosenbaum were on the scene as well. Rabbi Melamed attempted to negotiate with the police for the release of the four arrested protesters. "I told the police that if they released the protesters fully, then I would call for the others to allow the police to leave Beit El peacefully. But the police refused my offer," Rav Melamed related to Israel National News.
"Israel is ours," said Rav Melamed, "We have a right to this land. There is no place that is more ours than this place. All through the generations we have waited and hoped for the land of Israel. We must strengthen it now and not give up."
Police Commander Moti Shushan, who headed the operation, told his version of the events to Israel National News. "We escorted the Civil Administration into Beit El, to ensure their security as they removed an illegal structure," said Shushan. "Dozens of locals began to violently protest the action, and began throwing stones and blocks on my forces. One protester even took a gas grenade from a police vest that was lying in a police jeep and threw it on us. So we responded by spraying them with pepper spray. Eight policemen were wounded by the protesters. I don't know how many protesters were wounded."
A religious female journalist (pictured above) said she was also sprayed in the face with pepper spray. "The police apologized for spraying me; they said it was a mistake, and that it happened because I was too close by. It stung terribly and it still hurts a lot," she complained, her eyes red and blinking.
"The authorities are making cynical use of the death of Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu," local sources said. "His funeral was late at night, many people were up almost the whole night, so they came precisely now when everyone was least prepared."
A line of policemen blocked protesting yeshiva students near the entrance to Beit El. One yeshiva student, who was arguing loudly with the policemen, told Israel National News, "This is our home. After Gush Katif and Amona, we need to show that it won't be easy to destroy more Jewish homes. If we make a big fight over a small little hut, then they’ll realize what kind of trouble it will be to destroy a whole house. They won’t even try it."
Israel National News spoke with another yeshiva student who was wounded in the eyes, face, and neck with pepper spray. "We heard that they were going to destroy the building, so we came out," said the boy who was shivering, wet, and red in the eyes. "Then I went back to go learn in the Yeshiva, but then I was told that some of my friends were arrested so I went out again. We locked arms, and then the police started beating us and spraying us with pepper spray. A policeman sprayed me directly in the eyes. It hurt a lot. I couldn’t open my eyes for a long time. Finally, the MDA team came and sprayed me down with water. My eyes still hurt now. Why did I do this? Because we have to show them that they can’t destroy our homes. We can’t have another Gush Katif."