Following a string of protests and vandalism in the West Bank, right-wing Israelis and settlers blocked the road to Jerusalem with burning tires, and closed down train tracks to the country’s airport on Thursday, in what was billed as a “day of rage.”
Israeli news organizations said police evacuated protesters from highway 1 after a brief closure of the main artery, with the daily newspaper Haaretz saying that in Jerusalem, tires were set alight in a separate protest action.
The English news site Ynet noted that no arrests had been made.
“There were a number of attempts to block the Jerusalem road. Police quickly arrived and dispersed them,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP.
The groups were said to be part of Israel’s ultra-Zionist right wing, protesting the dismantling of three illegal shacks in the a settlement outpost called Havat Gilad, located in the occupied West Bank, and built on privately owned Palestinian land.
An Israeli government decision mandated the demolition, under a decision that will see three outposts taken down, and tens of others legalized.
Focus of the protests, however, has been on the dismantling of a single outpost, with Haaretz reporting that protest groups were told that taking down Havat Gilad could lead to more actions. Supporters were allegedly told that strong action would deter police in the future.
According to Yesha council leaders – a council of right-wing Israelis governing illegal West Bank settlements – those organizing the protests are not with the council, but were rather right-wing militants, Haaretz noted.
In the West Bank, Israeli forces are said to be on high-alert, preparing for settler action against Palestinians.
The extremist groups have been exacting a “price tag” policy, which sees attacks perpetrated against Palestinians who live in villages adjacent to settlements in retribution for Israeli police action targeting illegal settlement action.
“We have stepped up patrols in different areas in Judaea and Samaria (the West Bank) and Jerusalem and we are prepared to deal with disturbances as they happen,” Rosenfeld said.
On Wednesday, the Palestinian Authority issued a call to the international community to intervene and protect civilians from violent settler action.