Bulldozers raze Netiv Ha’avot outpost after settlers clear out

Few on site for court-ordered demolition, a day after police evacuate homeowners and thousands of protesters

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

A bulldozer demolishes a homes in the Netiv Ha'avot outpost on June 13, 2018. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)
A bulldozer demolishes a homes in the Netiv Ha'avot outpost on June 13, 2018. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Bulldozers began leveling 15 homes in the Netiv Ha’avot outpost Wednesday morning, completing a High Court of Justice decision which found that they had been built illegally on land not belonging to the state.

Few spectators were present to watch the demolition after security forces cleared the homes of their respective families, along with roughly 1,000 Israeli youth who converged on the Elazar settlement neighborhood Tuesday to support the residents and protest the razing.

The 15 families had already moved into a temporary neighborhood of modular homes built for them by the government on an adjacent hilltop known as “Plot 91.”

Tuesday’s evacuation was completed largely without incident. The first 13 homes were cleared quickly with demonstrators leaving under their own power.

In the final two homes, the residents had reached a prior agreement with the IDF, in which “passive resistance” would be permitted by protesters. The homes were split for the most part by gender.

The house full of over 100 teenage girls was cleared first, with a number of the young women kicking and screaming at the four troops assigned to carry each one by their limbs. However, the extent of opposition was limited and the home was vacated in roughly an hour.

In the final home, hundreds of teenage boys barricaded themselves inside, on the roof, the porch, and in the entryway. To prevent police entry, they used wire fencing, planks of wood and boulders.

It took about seven hours to clear the home with nearly every occupant refusing to leave the premises willingly.

Two teenage girls lay on the floor crying after being evicted from a home in the Netiv Ha’avot outpost on June 12, 2018. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)

Police reported having stones, bottles of paint and other objects hurled at officers by teens on the roof of the last home to be evacuated.

Officers faced a considerable amount of verbal abuse from the young demonstrators who lambasted them for “taking part in the eviction of Jews” and for “conspiring with the enemy.”

Nine cops were injured during the eviction, six of whom required medical attention. Most were released from medical care, but one required additional treatment.

Three people were arrested for their conduct during the clearing of the final home — an adult male for assaulting a police officer and two minors for hurling objects at cops from the roof. They all were conditionally released Wednesday following interrogations.

Youth protesters sitting in one the homes in the Netiv Ha’avot outpost slated for demolition on June 12, 2018. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)

Two additional minors were arrested in the morning of the evacuation for assaulting Border Police officers as demonstrators were still arriving at the West Bank outpost, but they were released shortly thereafter.

In total, 2,300 police officers and Border Police took part in the eviction operation, during which more than 500 youths were forcibly removed from the site and put on 15 buses that shipped them to various cities throughout the country.

Police said that the families living in the outpost as well as hundreds of their supporters left the site of their own accord.

A police officer is treated by medics after being attacked by settlers during the evacuation of the illegal West Bank outpost of Netiv Ha’avot on June 12, 2018. (Israel Police)

Lawmakers from the religious pro-settler Jewish Home party were at the outpost during the evacuation to express their support for the protesters.

Tuesday’s eviction came 21 months after the High Court of Justice first ruled that 17 buildings in the neighborhood had been constructed on land not belonging to the state, and ordered that they be demolished by March 8, 2018.

Two of the structures, a small wood shop and a monument for two IDF soldiers killed fighting in Lebanon, were demolished last year.

The remaining 15 residential homes were slated to be razed in March, but the High Court granted a three-month delay to arrange temporary housing for the evicted residents.

In February, the cabinet approved a proposal to begin the process of legalizing the rest of Netiv Ha’avot. The remainder of the outpost includes an additional 20 homes that were also built illegally, but were constructed on parcels declared by Israel to be “state land,” and do not stand on private Palestinian property. The residents plan to use the government’s authorization of an official building plan to advance the construction of 350 more homes in the neighborhood.

Jewish Home MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (R) sits with members of the Bulvik family ahead of the clearing of their home in the Netiv Ha’avot outpost on June 12, 2018. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)

A group of seven Palestinians have claimed ownership of the land on which much of Netiv Ha’avot was established in 2001, insisting that they were expelled by Israeli settlers. After an extended legal process, the court ruled in their favor, leading it to order the razing.

Another hearing on the issue is expected in the coming months. A victory for the Palestinian landowners would prevent Netiv Ha’avot residents from moving forward with plans to legalize and expand the remainder of the neighborhood, which the petitioners claim was built on their property as well.

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