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      Photos: Arabs Set Large Fire Near Yitzhar

      Soldiers, residents fought fire under a hail of rocks, but were forbidden to fire at the attackers.
      By Gil Ronen
      First Publish: 5/30/2013, 8:58 PM

      Fighting the blaze
      Fighting the blaze
      Yitzhar spokesman

      A large fire set by Arabs was put out when it was just a few meters away from a military encampment near Yitzhar, in Samaria, on Thursday.

      Residents of Yitzhar and soldiers fought the blaze under a hail of rocks. Despite the danger to their lives, they were forbidden to fire at the attackers. A fight between Jews and Arabs ended in the Arab attackers running back to their village.

      At about 1:00 p.m., Arabs from the village of Asira al Kabaliya, west of Yitzhar, set a large-scale fire, taking advantage of dry winds and hot temperatures. The fire spread quickly and was blocked in a joint effort by Jewish settlers and soldiers, just meters away from the military camp and a nearby guard position.

      The fire also reached the olive groves of another Arab village, Urif, and burned dozens of olive trees.

      All the while, as the fire was spreading, about 100 Arabs from Asira hurled rocks at the Jews. Several dozen of them used slingshots that can launch a rock on a high speed trajectory over a long distance. The soldiers were only allowed to use tear gas, but the gas simply mixed with the heavy smoke and had little effect.

      Jewish residents responded by hurling rocks back at their attackers. After a prolonged confrontation, the Arabs ran back to their homes. At least one of them was injured by a rock.

      A spokesman for the community of Yitzhar , Avraham Binyamin, said that there are on average 20 arson attacks against Yitzhar each summer. Arson attacks have been taking place in Jerusalem recently on almost a daily basis as well, with Arabs hurling rocks at firefighters who enter their neighbourhoods to tackle the blazes.

      In recent years, IDF soldiers have been forbidden from firing at Arab rioters except under the most extreme of circumstances. IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz explained this week that this policy is intended to prevent "escalation" and "a loss of control."

      On Thursday evening, Yitzhar will mark 30 days since the murder of a resident, Evyatar Borovsky, at the Tapuach junction.



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