7 arrested as Border Police demolish illegal West Bank Jewish outpost

Several people at Oz Zion reported to hurl objects at forces and attempt to barricade themselves inside a building

A structure is demolished at the Oz Zion illegal outpost north of Jerusalem, June 23, 2021 (video screenshot)
A structure is demolished at the Oz Zion illegal outpost north of Jerusalem, June 23, 2021 (video screenshot)

Seven people were arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of assaulting law enforcement officials as Border Police forces evacuated an illegal Jewish outpost in the West Bank.

Several structures were demolished in Oz Zion, located between Jerusalem and Ramallah.

There were no reports of injuries.

According to Kan news, one family and a small commune of some 20 youths were living in the outpost. Several people hurled objects at the forces and attempted to barricade themselves inside a building.

Oz Zion has been demolished by the government and rebuilt by settlers numerous times in recent years, under the government of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Nevertheless, far-right lawmakers cited Wednesday’s latest demolition as proof that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was dangerous to the settlement movement.

Religious Zionism party head Bezalel Smotrich said: “As we feared, within days of the formation of the government the destruction of communities has begun… Arab construction is out of control in the Negev, Galilee and Judea and Samaria and Bennett and [Justice Minister Ayelet] Shaked are choosing to demolish for Jews.”

Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich leads a faction meeting at the Knesset on May 3, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The party’s far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir decried the fact that Bennett, once head of the Yesha Council of West Bank settlements, “is now leading the destruction of communities. Amazingly, Bennett is approving demolitions in settlements while he and his friends are ensuring there are no demolitions for Bedouins.”

The issue of illegal outposts has already put some strain on the fragile coalition government, and particularly the expected evacuation of the illegal Evyatar outpost, near Ariel.

On Sunday the Israel Defense Forces rejected out of hand an appeal against the planned evacuation and demolition of Evyatar. “The Evyatar outpost was established illegally. Everything was done in complete violation of the law and without any proprietary or planning agreements,” the IDF Central Command said.

Settlers seen in the Illegal Evyatar outpost, in the northern West Bank, on June 16, 2021. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

Local Palestinian residents say they historically worked the land on which the outpost was built, but that the Israeli army has recently prevented them from reaching the area. The Civil Administration, an Israeli military body that manages Palestinian civilian affairs — including West Bank land registration — says it has not determined to whom the land belongs. According to West Bank property laws, uncultivated land can revert back to public ownership.

The outpost has quickly grown over the last two months, swelling to roughly 50 buildings for dozens of families. The outpost’s Facebook page boasts that Evyatar prevents contiguity between the surrounding Palestinian villages while connecting the Israeli settlement of Tapuah to the Za’atara Junction and Migdalim settlement.

On Monday Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Evyatar would be razed in accordance with army orders and that the issue would not be a source of division within the government.

The area around Evyatar has seen repeated clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians in recent weeks following the reestablishment of the outpost. Evyatar has already been razed several times since it was built in 2013 after the murder of Yitzhar resident Evyatar Borovsky in a stabbing attack at the Tapuah Junction.

Palestinians near the adjacent Beita have hurled stones at troops and burned swaths of land, while Israeli soldiers have responded with riot dispersal munitions and in some cases, live bullets. In recent weeks, four Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the clashes.

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