Israeli police on Monday released 33 right-wing Jewish activists who had infiltrated into a Palestinian city to pray at an ancient Jewish synagogue.
Some 35 activists broke through an Israeli military roadblock late Sunday and into the abandoned synagogue in the West Bank city of Jericho, where they barricaded themselves, an Israeli military spokeswoman in Tel Aviv said.
She said the group refused to leave and were forcibly removed by Israeli soldiers, who handed them over to police custody.
Israel Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld, said 33 of them were released “under restrictive conditions,” while two who allegedly attacked a policewoman and damaged a security vehicle would be brought before a judge to have their remand extended.
Israeli military officials expressed outrage at the action by the right-wing activists, with a senior commander in the area, Colonel Yohai Ben Yishai, noting they had needlessly jeopardized Israeli soldiers by infiltrating and then refusing to leave the Palestinian-controlled city.
Lawmaker Avishay Braverman, of the left-to-centre Israel Labour Party, on Israel Radio condemned the act as an “irresponsible provocation” by Jewish extremists.
An ultra-nationalist legislator, Michael Ben Ari of the National Union, told Israel Radio Israel should return to autonomous Palestinian cities in the West Bank, from which it had withdrawn under the 1993 interim Oslo peace accords.
Palestinian officials too condemned the incident as a “dangerous precedent,” a “provocation,” and a violation of the Oslo accords.