Police, settler youth clash during clearing of illegal West Bank outpost

Police, settler youth clash during clearing of illegal West Bank outpost

11 officers injured as demonstrators hurl objects at troops; far-right activists claim cops used excessive force evacuating 10 structures in Tapuah West

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

Far-right youths protest the court-ordered demolition of 17 buildings in the illegal outpost of Tapuah West. (Israel Police)
Far-right youths protest the court-ordered demolition of 17 buildings in the illegal outpost of Tapuah West. (Israel Police)

TAPUAH WEST, West Bank — Police clashed with hundreds of settler youth who converged on Tapuah West on Sunday to protest the court-ordered demolition of ten buildings in the northern West Bank illegal outpost

Eleven officers were injured and six far-right teen demonstrators were arrested for assaulting security forces and rioting, police said.

Officers faced “violent resistance” from protesters, who hurled bleach, sticks, eggs and other objects at forces, police said.

For their part, demonstrators accused officers of employing excessive force while working to distance youth from the area. They said that five teen activists were injured by police evacuators, with one of them being refused medical attention despite a serious head injury.

By the early afternoon, police managed to clear the outpost of non-residents.

Over the course of the evacuation, officers detained hundreds of protesters, loading them onto buses that dropped them off at the Ofra settlement miles away. Dozens of youth subsequently dispersed to major junctions throughout the West Bank and Jerusalem to hold additional demonstrations against the demolition.

With the outpost largely cleared of non-residents, security forces were working with residents to pack up the ten structures before bulldozers were expected to flatten them later in the day.

Security forces arrived Saturday evening and began closing off the hilltop community, which lies between the settlements of Kfar Tapuah and Ariel.

Immediately thereafter, residents began calling on young activists to come and protest the eviction. Within hours, hundreds of far-right youths gathered at the site, with a number of them throwing stones at police forces.

One 15-year-old boy was arrested at the Ofra junction after again scuffling with troops. He was taken to the Binyamin Police Station where he was interrogated and released to house arrest for five days.

Previous evacuations in the area have also seen violent scuffles between protesters and police.

In February 2017, the High Court of Justice sanctioned the razing of 17 buildings in Tapuah West, an agricultural area, that were found to have been built on private land belonging to residents of the nearby Palestinian village of Yasuf.

In its decision, the court accepted the opinion of the state, which did not oppose the demolition of those buildings, but asked that the remaining 18 illegal structures be saved as they are located on parcels considered to be “state land,” which the government plans to legalize.

The head of one of the injured teens cleared from the Tapuah West outpost ahead of the demolition of 10 buildings in the hilltop community on June 17, 2018. (Courtesy)

Four of those buildings in the outpost straddle state land and private land. Their fate is expected to be decided in the coming weeks by the High Court.

The court ruling sanctioning the demolition included the homes of five families in the outpost where the majority of buildings are non-residential ones used for agricultural purposes.

Over the past month, residents removed a number of structures that were slated to be bulldozed and two others were moved to land not found to be owned by Palestinians from Yasuf. However, residents said that they were informed last week that those two buildings would still be razed as their transfer was not approved.

Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan called on Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to prevent the demolition of the two buildings “because the residents have already made an effort and moved the structures, despite great difficulty and pain.”

Police arrive to clear the illegal Tapuah West outpost on June 17, 2018, ahead of its court-ordered demolition. (Courtesy)

However, families in Tapuah West have also railed against Dagan, the Samaria Regional Council and the neighboring Kfar Tapuah settlement for complying with the court-ordered demolition.

“For months, we were told not to start a public campaign against the eviction because they would soon legalize the community and we would be saved,” said Moshe Hertzlich, a representative of the outpost.

“It turns out the municipality and Kfar Tapuah want us gone just as much as the High Court,” he claimed, claiming that the agricultural community takes up space that the regional council would like to use to build dozens of new homes.

In a mass text message sent from the Kfar Tapuah secretariat obtained by The Times of Israel, residents were told not to protest the eviction.

“For the benefit of the settlement movement, it is very important that the evacuation pass quietly and peacefully without any desecration of God’s name,” the message read.

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