The High Court of Justice rejected on Monday an appeal to halt the upcoming demolition of nine buildings constructed without permits on private Palestinian land in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ofra.
Residents of Ofra requested that the nine buildings, eight of which are homes, be sealed off rather than destroyed
That would have made them eligible for being spared in accordance with legislation passed earlier this month known as the Regulation Law. The law legalizes Jewish homes constructed illegally on Palestinian land, if homeowners can prove they built their homes in good faith or received government assistance.
Palestinians whose land is expropriated under the law are eligible to receive either financial compensation or alternative plots elsewhere.
However, the judges ruled unanimously that the evacuation of the buildings must go ahead.
The court first issued its demolition ruling in February 2015, and, after a number of delays, set March 5 as the final deadline by which the buildings must be pulled down.
On Monday, the IDF began setting up roadblocks around Ofra ahead of the expected evacuation of the buildings on Tuesday, in order to prevent right-wing activists from arriving at the settlement, the Hebrew-language Walla news site reported.
In response to the army’s preparations, residents of Ofra called on the public to come to the site to protest, the Hebrew-language Haaretz daily reported.
Over the weekend, police began carrying out preventive arrests of far-right activists as part of their efforts to avoid a repeat of the violent scenes that occurred during the evacuation of the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona earlier this month.
On Sunday, a 20-year-old Jerusalem resident was arrested on suspicion of planning to disrupt the upcoming demolitions — after he refused to sign a police order prohibiting him from entering the settlement.
Following his arrest, the man was brought before a judge at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, who issued a restraining order forbidding him from setting foot in Ofra for the next fifteen days, according the Hebrew-language Haaretz daily.
According to a lawyer representing the man from the far-right Honenu legal aid group, a minor was also detained for the same reason in recent days, but was released after acquiescing to a police order to keep away from Ofra.
Border Police officers over the weekend cleared a number of far-right activists from one of the buildings set to be demolished in Ofra. Those inside the building, which is abandoned, were reportedly attempting to barricade themselves to resist the upcoming evacuation.
The actual residents of the homes in question have not sought confrontation, saying in a statement, “We will not use crowbars and we will not barricade ourselves” inside the homes. Most of the families living in the buildings have already left, the Ynet news site reported.
Earlier this month, over 5,000 people protested the evacuation at a rally in Ofra, with prominent nationalist-religious leader Rabbi Haim Druckman vowing at the demonstration that “we will continue to settle the Land of Israel…. We are not thieves.”
The original case against the nine buildings was brought before the High Court in 2008 by the left-leaning Yesh Din legal organization, which represented the Palestinian landowner.
A report published in the same year by another Israeli rights group, B’Tselem, said some 60 percent of the built-up area of Ofra lies on land that is registered to Palestinians. The claims to private ownership of lands in settlements like Ofra and the Amona outpost are based on the pre-1967 Jordanian land registry, which Israel adopted after it captured the West Bank from the Jordanians that year.
Raoul Wootliff and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.