JERUSALEM - Throwing rocks, burning tires, and carrying out other assaults on the Israeli military are not unheard of in the West Bank. But the incident Monday night registered loudly with Israeli authorities: The attackers were Jewish extremists.
Dozens of right-wing supporters of the settlers' movement infiltrated an army regional division headquarters near the settlement of Kedumim in the West Bank, set tires on fire, vandalized vehicles, and scattered nails on the road. Senior officers also were attacked with rocks.
The incident triggered public outrage and provoked tough talk across Israel's political board. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the attack and ordered security forces to act aggressively against those assaulting the army.
"No one may raise a hand to strike a soldier or policeman. This is the basis of democracy and of the law," he said. He called an emergency meeting with security and legal officials. Defense authorities vowed to capture and try those involved.
Opposition leader Tzipi Livni of the Kadima party said in a statement that the only emergency discussion Israel needed should take place at the ballot box and that nothing would change so long as Netanyahu was "a willing hostage" of the extreme right wing. Livni blamed Netanyahu's administration for fostering such radicalization.
Increasingly, Israeli authorities are challenged by radicals from Jewish settlements in the West Bank who reject the settlers' umbrella group Yesha Council as too moderate. Council chairman Danny Dayan called the attacks "disgraceful."
Trouble instigated by Jewish extremists in the West Bank has been on the rise for months, with attacks on Palestinian property and people. Inside Israel, they have inspired the targeting of Muslim sites and left-wing officials with nongovernmental organizations. Jewish extremists have dubbed such attacks "price-tag operations," meaning they are carried out in retaliation for government efforts to curb or remove settlements.
If attacks against Palestinians don't always appear to get vigorously investigated, targeting the army got the attention of the authorities. Defense Minister Ehud Barak used unequivocally harsh language Tuesday, calling the perpetrators "criminal groups of extremists" whose activities have the markings of "homegrown terror."