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5,000 protest in Ofra against planned evacuation of 9 homes

Rally comes shortly after High Court delays the demolition of the settlement buildings until March 5

Protesters attend a demonstration against the demolition of nine homes in the Ofra settlement of the West Bank on February 5, 2017. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Protesters attend a demonstration against the demolition of nine homes in the Ofra settlement of the West Bank on February 5, 2017. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Some 5,000 protesters gathered in the West Bank settlement of Ofra on Sunday to demonstrate against the planned evacuation of nine homes built without permits on private Palestinian land.

The demonstration in the northern West Bank settlement convened shortly after the High Court handed down a decision to delay the home demolitions by one month.

Among the speakers at the rally was Rabbi Haim Druckman, the current head of the Bnei Akiva youth movement. “We will return to Amona,” the former National Religious Party MK told the crowd, referring to the nearby illegal outpost that was evacuated by Israeli forces in a separate case last week. “We will continue to settle the Land of Israel…We are not thieves,” he said.

The protest came a day after Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked faced criticism and shouts of “shame” from Ofra locals who blamed the Jewish Home party politicians for failing to prevent the evacuation of Amona.

“We elected you in order to fight, not to surrender to [Prime Minister] Bibi [Netanyahu],” residents shouted at the ministers, who were in Ofra to discuss the so-called Regulation Bill with the town’s leaders.

“You should be ashamed,” some shouted as Bennett and Shaked left the meeting.

Rabbi Haim Drukman speaks during a demonstration against the demolition of nine homes in Ofra on February 5, 2017. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Rabbi Haim Drukman speaks during a demonstration against the demolition of nine homes in Ofra on February 5, 2017. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

In February 2015, the court ruled that the Ofra buildings had to be demolished, as they were found to have been built without permits on privately owned Palestinian land.

The deadline for the order was set for February 8, 2017.

On January 25, the residents requested a three-month extension for the court order. That was denied on Sunday in favor of a one-month delay, in order to allow security forces time to prepare, the court said.

The nine buildings will now have to be demolished by March 5.

High Court of Justice President Miriam Naor said she hoped the eventual evacuation and demolition of the nine Ofra homes would be carried out “in a peaceful way.”

Shaked and Bennett’s Jewish Home party are seeking to pass the so-called Regulation Bill, which would legalize several thousand homes built on privately owned Palestinian land, into law on Monday, over the objections of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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