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Hundreds of settlers clash with Palestinians around illegal West Bank outpost

Israelis reportedly throw stones at Palestinian homes near settlement of Homesh; troops block left-wing activists, confiscate yeshiva equipment

A Palestinian protester walks past burning tires and trash bins, set up as roadblocks in the West Bank village of Burqa during clashes with Israeli forces following a protest against a march by Israelis to the wildcat settlement outpost of Homesh, on April 19, 2022. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)
Illustrative: A Palestinian protester walks past burning tires and trash bins, set up as roadblocks in the West Bank village of Burqa during clashes with Israeli forces following a protest against a march by Israelis to the wildcat settlement outpost of Homesh, on April 19, 2022. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Hundreds of Israeli settlers clashed with Palestinians on Friday around the illegal West Bank outpost of Homesh, a symbolic site for the settlement movement that government leaders have vowed to dismantle in accordance with the law.

On their way to Homesh, some of the settlers went into the nearby Palestinian village of Burqa and threw stones at houses, fired weapons and set fields on fire, according to Palestinian reports.

Israel Defense Forces troops blocked the entrances to the village, and skirmished with residents, causing 15 injuries, Channel 13 reported.

Earlier Friday, activists from the Peace Now settlement watchdog group arrived in the area and were blocked from entering. The activists requested approval from military officials, and were told that their going to Homesh and protesting was illegal, the network reported.

On Friday afternoon, with Shabbat approaching, dozens of Border Police officers arrived at Homesh and confiscated equipment from around the settlement’s yeshiva, including personal belongings of students and guests.

The Hatzalah Rescuers Without Borders emergency responders group reported stone-throwing attacks against Israeli vehicles in the area, causing light injuries to one woman.

The Palestinian Red Crescent rescue service claimed close to 90 Palestinians were injured by Israeli troops in the West Bank on Friday, and said at least one person was shot in the leg. The group said the Israelis used stun grenades, rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse Palestinian protesters, with the worst fighting take place in the town of Huwara.

Also in the West Bank on Friday, a 15-year-old Palestinian teenager was killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank town of Al-Khader south of Bethlehem, after Palestinians allegedly hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at troops in the area.

Palestinians throw stones at Israeli forces in the West Bank village of Burqa during clashes to protest a march by Israelis to the wildcat settlement outpost of Homesh on April 19, 2022. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Homesh has become a focal point for the settler movement. Government ministers have vowed to push forward with the outpost’s eviction, which is the subject of an ongoing High Court of Justice case. The time frame for the eviction is still unclear.

The issue has threatened to become another crisis for the teetering coalition. Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked said on Wednesday she would try to prevent the settlement’s complete evacuation, despite her coalition partners’ statements in favor of the move.

Leaning on the law, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Tuesday that construction in Homesh is currently “illegal.”

“There is a law that states that construction in localities that were part of the disengagement is illegal,” Bennett said. The outpost is built on privately owned Palestinian land.

Making the government’s strongest statement, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that he will evacuate Homesh as per the law, but he did not specify a timeframe for action.

“Homesh will be evacuated,” Gantz said on Monday at the opening of his Blue and White faction meeting. “Israeli law requires it.”

Illustrative: Visitors walk by the water tower on the ruins of the evacuated settlement of Homesh on August 27, 2019. (Hillel Maeir/Flash90)

Homesh was originally shuttered as one of four Jewish settlements in the northern Samaria section of the West Bank included in the 2005 disengagement plan, which mostly focused on evacuating Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip.

Since its evacuation, Homesh has become a symbol of struggle for the settler movement and an irritant to local Palestinian communities.

Although families have been formally evacuated from its borders, Homesh has been home to a destroyed and then reconstructed yeshiva. Its students and their supporters have a tense relationship with the surrounding Palestinian communities.

In December 2021, yeshiva student Yehuda Dimentman was killed in a terror attack while leaving the outpost.

On Tuesday, residents of the nearby Palestinian village Burqa set fire to a Homesh structure, and yeshiva students came down to meet them, setting off a stone-throwing fight, according to Army Radio.

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