Court freezes evacuation of illegal West Bank outpost, as two other outposts removed

Jerusalem District Court suggests relocation to alternative site for settler activists who set up Hamor outpost in wake of deadly terror attack near Eli

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

Construction equipment and caravan houses are seen at the new illegal outpost of Hamor near the West Bank settlement of Maale Levona on June 22, 2023, following a deadly terror attack at a nearby gas station two days before. (Courtesy)
Construction equipment and caravan houses are seen at the new illegal outpost of Hamor near the West Bank settlement of Maale Levona on June 22, 2023, following a deadly terror attack at a nearby gas station two days before. (Courtesy)

The Jerusalem District Court on Thursday froze a military order to remove a new illegal West Bank outpost, after the settler activists who set up the dwelling last week appealed to the court to find an alternative solution.

Security forces belonging to the Civil Administration arrived at the Hamor outpost Thursday morning to enforce the evacuation order, but the court order freezing its implementation was received as those forces were preparing to evacuate and demolish the outpost, and so no enforcement actions were taken.

Last week, several families established the new illegal outpost, dubbed the “Hamor Neighborhood,” close to another illegal outpost named Givat Haroeh, which is near the Maale Levonah and Eli settlements.

Five mobile homes were brought to the site, and heavy earth-moving equipment was brought in to prepare the land for the placement of the homes and to construct an access road to the new outpost.

The State Attorney’s Office has already filed its response to the petition insisting that Hamor be evacuated and demolished since it was built without authorization or planning permission.

But Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who also serves as an additional minister in the Defense Ministry, sent an urgent letter to Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara on Thursday lambasting the State Attorney’s Office for its response and demanding that she instruct them to retract the state’s response.

Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich, center, visits the illegal outpost of Evyatar, in the West Bank, on June 27, 2021. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90)

The far-right Smotrich insisted that in accordance with coalition agreements and arrangements, he is the government representative who must be consulted regarding enforcement against illegal construction in the West Bank, and that the State Attorney’s Office should have therefore sought his instructions before filing the response.

“Instead, in a daylight ambush, the state’s response was filed by the State Attorney’s Office without any coordination with the defense minister or the additional minister in the Defense Ministry,” fumed Smotrich in his letter.

The Jerusalem District Court order stipulated that the petitioners pay a NIS 50,000 ($13,540) deposit in order for the temporary injunction against the evacuation order to go into effect, and also clarify to the court by July 2 who lives in Hamor and the specific date the outpost was established.

The court also asked the petitioners if there was any reason not to transfer the mobile homes to an alternative site which, unlike the current site, does not lie inside an area in which residential construction is prohibited.

The state will have until July 4 to respond to the petitioners’ response.

The petitioners claimed in their original filing to the court that the land on which Hamor has been situated is within the boundaries of the Givat Haroeh illegal outpost, which was slated for legalization by the government back in February, and therefore should not be pulled down.

In addition, they argued that the prefabricated structures in the outpost were their homes and are housing 11 children under the age of five. The court should therefore give a definitive ruling on the legality of the outpost before the evacuation order creates a “done deed,” the petitioners argued.

Enforcement action was, however, taken against two other illegal West Bank outposts on Thursday, one close to the Neve Erez farming outpost in the Benjamin Regional Council district and another by the Mevo’ot Jericho outpost.

Security forces personnel prepare to evacuate a new illegal West Bank outpost established close to the Neve Erez illegal outpost northeast of Jerusalem, June 29, 2023. (Courtesy)

According to settler activists, Harel Masood, one of the victims of a deadly Palestinian terror attack near the settlement of Eli last week, had intended to move to the farming outpost by Neve Erez before he was killed. The activists said the outpost was established by friends of Masood and Nachman Mordoff, another of the Eli attack victims, after last week’s attack.

And settler activists said that another illegal farming outpost close to the illegal outpost of Mevo’ot Jericho was also evacuated by police forces on Thursday, although the Civil Administration said the residents of that outpost left voluntarily.

“A government of terror and destruction, that which Harel [Masood] intended to establish in his lifetime they are destroying after his death,” said a press statement put out in the name of a friend of Masood, Shoval Ben Sasson.

“How do the hands of the government not shake,” Ben Sasson was quoted as saying. “The blood of our friends whom we buried with our own hands is still fresh, but the Israeli government is sending its forces to wipe out and destroy the farm that was established in memory of those murdered.”

Ben Sasson accused the government of “failing miserably” to provide security to Israeli citizens in light of the spate of terror attacks this year, and said it was “adding insult to injury” by evacuating settlement homes.

“We were promised a right-wing government, but we got a government of destruction and terror,” concluded Ben Sasson.

According to the left-wing Peace Now nonprofit, six new illegal outposts were set up in the aftermath of the Eli terror attack on the night of June 21, five of which consisted primarily of very small numbers of tents and temporary structures. On Tuesday night, settler activists also repopulated the illegal Evyatar outpost where prefabricated buildings are already in place from previous efforts to create a settlement at the site.

People at the newly repopulated illegal Evyatar outpost in the West Bank, June 22, 2023. (Flash90)

Among those six outposts were the farming outposts near Mevo’ot Jericho and Neve Erez which were removed on Thursday, as well as Hamor, the fate of which is now in the hands of the Jerusalem District Court. The other three outposts were set up close to the settlements of Tekoa, Neve Tzuf (also know as Halamish) and Emanuel.

According to Peace Now, the Hamor outpost is located on the land of the Palestinian villages of Sinjil and Luban a-Sharkia, the outpost established east of Tekoa is on the lands of the Palestinian village of Tuqu’, and the outpost established west of Neve Tzuf, consisting of a single tent, is on lands of the Palestinian village of Umm Safa, but may already have either been abandoned or removed.

The outpost by Mevo’ot Jericho was located on the lands of the Palestinian town of Taybeh, and the outpost east of Neve Erez on the lands of the Palestinian village of Mukhmas.

“Violating the law, destroying the possibility of a future Palestinian State, creating further points of friction between settlers and Palestinians and rewarding settler violence has become the official policy of the State of Israel in the West Bank,” Peace Now said in a statement on Thursday.

“Beyond the devastating consequences that these outposts will have, first and foremost on Palestinians, the government of Israel is also destroying the possibility of a life of dignity and peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”

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