Court rejects settlers’ plea, giving go-ahead for outpost demolition

Forces tearing down 10 structures in Ma’ale Rehavam; illegal buildings in Givat Asaf, Ramat Gilad also slated to be razed in coming days

Yifa Yaakov is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Border Police outside a home slated for destruction in Ma'ale Rehavam Wednesday. (Screen capture: Israel National News)
Border Police outside a home slated for destruction in Ma'ale Rehavam Wednesday. (Screen capture: Israel National News)

Security forces began an operation to demolish 10 illegal structures in the West Bank outpost of Ma’ale Rehavam early Wednesday afternoon, after the High Court rejected claims by settlers that the land the buildings are on was purchased legally.

In a last-minute move, the Supreme Court had ordered an injuction against the pending demolition of the 10 structures deemed illegal in the West Bank outpost, forcing the military to temporarily call off the operation.

The injunction, issued late Wednesday morning, came as security forces geared up for violent resistance as they carry out a court order to demolish 28 structures in three West Bank outposts, including a synagogue.

Forces had already made their way to Ma’ale Rehavam, south of Jerusalem, when the order was issued following an appeal by outpost residents.

After the court rejected the settlers’ claims, forces were given the go-ahead to begin demolishing the structures, three of which house families.

A bulldozer in Ma'ale Rehavam Wednesday.  (Screen capture: Israel National News)
A bulldozer in Ma’ale Rehavam Wednesday. (Screen capture: Israel National News)

About 20 police vehicles entered the outpost late Wednesday morning after driving through a road strewn with burning tires and stone barricades, Israel Radio reported.

They were met with rock-throwing and obscenities by masked men, according to Army Radio.

At least four people were held for trying to prevent Border Police troops from reaching the site.

The demolition of the structures, which were built on privately owned land near larger settlements, comes six months after the High Court of Justice ruled that they were illegal.

In November 2013, Supreme Court Vice President Justice Miriam Naor ruled that the state must demolish the buildings within six months, criticizing the government for having failed to do so.

Since the ruling was issued, the residents of the outposts have refused to leave the buildings, leading security forces to expect resistance, large-scale protests and possibly even violence when the court order is finally carried out on Wednesday.

Some 16 families live in the 28 buildings slated for demolition.

Seven buildings are located in Givat Asaf, near Beit El, including one that is used as a synagogue; seven are in Ramat Gilad, near Karnei Shomron; and 10 in Ma’ale Rehavam, in the Gush Etzion bloc.

Other buildings in Ma’ale Rehavam, which the court found had been built legally, are expected to receive government permits allowing them to remain standing — in effect giving a seal of approval to the outpost.

Two other outposts, Givat Hara’a and Mitzpe Lachish, are to receive permits as well.

Last month, a move by security forces to tear down illegal structures in Mitzpeh Yitzhar, adjacent to the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, was met with a violent riot in which local settlers, angered over the nighttime demolition, sacked an army position.

Hundreds of troops are expected to carry out the demolition order, and the areas around the outposts were declared closed military zones.

The ruling to tear down the structures came a decade after the structures were built, and six years after Peace Now filed a petition calling on the government to evacuate six West Bank outposts: Givat Asaf, Mitzpeh Yitzhar, Ramat Gilad, Ma’ale Rehavam, Givat Hara’a, and Mitzpeh Lachish.

When they were built, all six outposts became subject to a “delineation order,” an injunction stipulating that the state can evacuate them at any given moment. In 2007, Peace Now pushed for the state to act on the injunction, and in early 2011 the state finally agreed to evacuate all structures built on privately owned land.

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