A year later, charges filed against 8 Ofra evacuation protesters
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A year later, charges filed against 8 Ofra evacuation protesters

21 officers suffered injuries during demolition of 9 illegally built settlement homes, but none of the indictments against demonstrators are for assault

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

Israeli police remove protesters from the roof of a home slated to be destroyed in the West Bank settlement of Ofra on March 1, 2017. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)
Israeli police remove protesters from the roof of a home slated to be destroyed in the West Bank settlement of Ofra on March 1, 2017. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)

Israel Police announced Wednesday that it had filed indictments against eight men accused of disrupting police efforts to carry out the March 2017 demolition of nine homes in the Ofra settlement that were built on private Palestinian land.

But while at least 21 officers suffered various injuries that required hospital treatment, none of the charges against the demonstrators were for assault.

Instead, each of the men was indicted for preventing officers from carrying out their duties, while a number of them were charged for carrying knives and brass knuckles with intent, the statement from the Israel Police’s West Bank District said.

“During the evacuation operations carried out by the forces in the area of ​​the settlement, the defendants were told that the area was a closed military zone and that both their entrance and their stay there was prohibited. However, they continued to remain there and climbed onto the roof of one of the homes slated for demolition,” the statement said.

Protesters sit on a rooftop of a home during an operation to evacuate nine homes in the Jewish settlement of Ofra, in the West Bank, February 28, 2017. (Raoul Wootliff/Times of Israel)

When soldiers climbed onto the roof to remove the young protesters, they locked arms and continued to refuse orders to come down, police said.

On the day of the March 2, 2017, demolition, a police spokeswoman said 15 people in total were arrested over the course of the evacuation for attacking police officers, of whom 10 had failed to obey police orders by refusing to come down from the roof.

The right-wing legal aid organization Honenu said that one resident of the settlement was arrested for trying to give food to the demonstrators barricaded on the roof using a remote-controlled drone.

Four of those arrested were later conditionally released after being interrogated.

Israeli police forces evacuate protesters on February 28, 2017 in the West Bank settlement of Ofra, during an operation by Israeli forces to demolish nine buildings. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)

While protesters had claimed that security forces employed excessive force in clearing the area, a police spokeswoman firmly denied such charges, calling such accusations “baseless” and adding that the outbreaks of violence were initiated exclusively by protesters.

The Ofra evacuation came just over a month after a larger demolition in the nearby illegal outpost of Amona. Then, police cited similar violent opposition from over 1,000 youth protesters who were said to have injured at least 60 officers during the clearing of the hilltop community.

Protesters hurled rocks at officers, threw bleach and acid at them, hit them with metal rods and sprayed them with tear gas, police said.

However, nine months after the February 1, 2017, demolition, authorities filed indictments against just three protesters.

Like those from Ofra, the trio were charged with violating a military order prohibiting nonresidents from entering the area and preventing officers from carrying out their duties. In addition, one of the men was accused of using force and threats to prevent an arrest, though none of the charges was for assault.

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