Defense Minister Ehud Barak strongly condemned a rash of what appeared to be "price tag" vandal attacks carried out early Wednesday. Three cars were torched and the wall of a mosque in the Samaria village of Deir Istia was spray painted with the words, "Price Tag Gal Arye Yosef."
The village is situated near the Jewish city of Ariel, about an hour north of Jerusalem and 40 minutes northeast of Tel Aviv.
Gal Yosef is the name of a Jewish hilltop neighborhood near Itamar that has been repeatedly demolished -- and was torn down again on Monday -- by government forces. During the demolition that took place in December, a Torah scroll that was in one of the homes was desecrated during the destruction of one of the homes.
Yedaya Shoham, the owner of the home, was arrested and taken into custody, and then subsequently released this week without being charged after having been held by security authorities for two weeks following the destruction of his home. Police said that if they had known a Torah scroll was on the site, they would have been more "sensitive."
Givat Arye, another outpost that was destroyed on Tuesday, may have been demolished in error. Its status is as yet undetermined, officials said, and as a result it may have been demolished illegally. Residents of the community noted that even their greenhouses, which may not require a permit for construction, were also torn down -- even though the area was zoned for agriculture. They believed the destruction was a form of police "price tag" action against settlers in the region.
Barak issued an order to the IDF and officials in the defense establishment to "act resolutely, purposefully and to use all the means at their disposal" to capture the "lawless rioters" and bring them to justice. "Such acts prevent the IDF from carrying out its primary missions, including the basic protection of the region's residents," he said."These activities are designed to damage the fragile relationship between Israelis and Palestinians in the Judea and Samaria region, as well as between Israel and its neighbors. The IDF, in cooperation with the police and security personnel, will act robustly against these criminal activities," he added in a statement issued Wednesday morning.