A group of Israeli settlers burst into an Arab girls' high school near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank today and seized a student they suspected of throwing stones at Jewish civilians, military authorities said.
The girl, who was taken by the settlers to the nearby military governor's headquarters for questioning, was released, and the matter was dropped, authorities said. But school officials angrily complained, saying that the girl, whose identity was not disclosed, had been "abducted."
The school, located in the Jalazoun refugee camp, was raided on Nov. 27 by vigilantes, who fired shots in the air from a submachine gun and smashed windows. School officials said laboratory equipment was damaged extensively.
Today's incident began when Arab youths stoned two Israeli school buses passing by the regugee camp. The camp has been involved in numerous rock-throwing incidents, and earlier this year was placed under curfew for more than a week.
Military authorities said a carload of settlers from the nearby Shiloh settlement went into the school and searched for the girl, whom they described as "ringleader" of the rock-throwers. Despite the protests of school officials, the settlers took the girl to the military post. A spokesman for the West Bank military command said the girl was accompanied by a school matron.
"We told her not to do it again, and let her go," the spokesman said, adding that settlers occasionally make such citizens arrests when an Arab suspect is identifable.
Vigilantism became a provocative issue in Israel last spring following a series of incidents in the Hebron area, where Arab residents were beaten up in their homes and where crops were destroyed by vandals. In one incident, settlers fired into a crowd of students in Halhoul, killing two Arab youths.
However, last month's incident at Jalazoun was the first recent serious clash between Arabs and vigilantes. Three Shiloh residents have been arrested, and one was forced to turn over his Army-issue Uzi submachine gun.
Also today, Rabbi Meir Kahane, head of the extremist Jewish Defense League, was prevented by military authorities from entering Nabius, the West Bank's largest town, to demonstrate against the recent release from jail of Nabius Mayor Bassam Shaka. Shaka had been accused of making a statement supporting Palestinian terrorism.
Kahane, who last week was released after serving a three-month jail term for defying a military ban against his entering Hebron, was turned back at the entrance to Nabius. However, eight of his followers drove into the town and shouted anti-Arab slogans until they were escorted out by military police.