By YAAKOV KATZ
The IDF is gearing up for a possible increase in settler violence late next month amid reports that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is mulling an extension of the freeze on housing starts in isolated West Bank settlements.
Communities that are within so-called settlement blocs such as Gush Etzion and Ma’aleh Adumim will likely be allowed to resume construction, according to the reports.
At the same time, the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria is preparing for the possibility that settlers will, despite a continuation of the freeze, begin construction in hundreds of places simultaneously to make it impractical to stop the work.
It is feared that settlers and right-wing activists will respond to such a government decision by attacking Palestinians.
The IDF has noted an increase in settler violence in the past year and several months ago established a new task force, made up of three companies of border policemen specially trained in crowd dispersal and nonlethal crowd control techniques. Unlike soldiers, border policemen have the authority to arrest demonstrators and search homes inside settlements.
The task force primarily operates in northern Samaria near settlements like Yitzhar that are known hotbeds of right-wing extremists.
Recent violence has included attacks against soldiers, as well as against Palestinian vehicles that were set on fire near Kedumim and spray-painted with the words “Price Tag,” a term indicating that the rampage was the work of settlers angry over the freeze on settlement construction.
A mosque in the Palestinian town of Hawara, south of Nablus, was also vandalized recently. Masked men spray-painted a Star of David and the word “Muhammad” – in Hebrew – on the wall of the mosque.