Some 20 Israeli families surreptitiously entered the evacuated settlement of Sa-Nur in the northern West Bank under the cover of darkness early Tuesday, in protest of the government’s refusal to allow them to return permanently to their homes evacuated 13 years ago.
The group was made up of former residents of Sa-Nur and Homesh, which — with two other northern West Bank settlements, Ganim and Kadim — were evacuated along with the Jewish settlements of the Gaza Strip in 2005 as part of Israel’s so-called disengagement plan.
The group did not coordinate its move with the military, and Israel Defense Forces troops arrived at the hilltop community Tuesday morning to alert the settlers that they were trespassing. The settlers reportedly expect to be forcibly removed later in the day.
Under the 2005 Disengagement Plan Implementation Law, the presence of Israeli civilians on the ruins of the four settlements is illegal.
While prime minister Ariel Sharon, who planned and executed the disengagement, cleared the northern West Bank communities as a goodwill gesture to the Palestinian Authority, the IDF has still prevented Palestinians from reaching those hilltops.
Writing on Twitter, far-right Yamina MK Bezalel Smotrich said that “the resumption of settlement in Sa-Nur is a necessary moral, Zionist and security step.”
Calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to allow the families to stay, Smotrich said, “There was no logical reason to destroy the settlement in the first place and there is no logical reason not to allow its reestablishment.”
Yossi Dagan, the head of the Samaria Regional Council, praised the return to the settlement, calling on the government to allow the families to stay and saying in a statement that “it is the right thing to do after it is clear that there is no person left in the State of Israel who believes that this displacement was correct.”
On a number of occasions, settlers have attempted to return en masse to Sa-Nur. In July 2015 security forces removed some 200 protesters from the hilltop after they entered to mark the 10th anniversary of its evacuation.
Unlike Sa-nur, nearby Homesh has had a near daily — albeit illegal — presence of settlers since the disengagement. Following the 2005 evacuation, a yeshiva was established on the Homesh ruins and, due to minimal IDF enforcement, some 25 students have been ascending the hilltop each day from their caravan dorms in the nearby Shavei Shomron settlement.