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Hundreds of settlers march against Palestinian construction

Right-wing rallies call for government to demolish unauthorized building in Area C of the West Bank

Israelis march with a national flag along a hillside near the settlement of Bat Ayin in the West Bank on June 21, 2021, as right-wing activists and settler leaders hold 14 simultaneous marches to stop 'illegal Arab control' in Area C. (Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)
Israelis march with a national flag along a hillside near the settlement of Bat Ayin in the West Bank on June 21, 2021, as right-wing activists and settler leaders hold 14 simultaneous marches to stop 'illegal Arab control' in Area C. (Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)

Hundreds of right-wing activists demonstrated in the West Bank on Monday against unauthorized Palestinian construction in Area C, which constitutes some 60 percent of the territory, and is under full Israeli security and civil control.

The settler protests were held in the Hebron Hills, Binyamin, and Etzion bloc regions of the West Bank, along with other areas. Some 100 demonstrators also marched from the Tapuah Junction to the new illegal Israeli outpost of Evyatar, the site of recent deadly clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces.

The protesters accused the Israeli government of turning a blind eye to rampant illegal Palestinian building in the area, and called for greater enforcement.

Israel occasionally demolishes Palestinian structures in Area C that it says lack the necessary permits. Palestinians say obtaining permits is extremely hard. Such demolitions frequently draw international condemnation. Between 2016 and 2018, just 21 of the 1,485 Palestinian applications for construction permits in Area C were approved by the Defense Ministry, or 0.81 percent.

Yossi Dagan, the head of the Samaria Regional Council, said the marches aimed to raise awareness of the “reality and the hypocrisy” of Israel’s uneven response to unapproved Jewish and Palestinian building in the area.

“This is political persecution against the residents of Judea and Samaria,” he claimed, referring to the West Bank by its biblical name.

Palestinian protesters attend a demonstration against the Evyatar settlement outpost, south of Nablus, on June 4, 2021, in the West Bank. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

The marches came as the Israel Defense Forces rejected out of hand an appeal against the planned evacuation and demolition of Evyatar.

Settler residents of the outpost had hoped to stop the planned evacuation, but the military denied their request on Sunday. “The Evyatar outpost was established illegally. Everything was done in complete violation of the law and without any proprietary or planning agreements,” the IDF Central Command wrote.

The residents can now appeal to Israel’s top court, the High Court of Justice, but their petition is unlikely to be accepted there.

Local Palestinian residents say they historically worked the land on which the outpost was built, but that the Israeli army has recently prevented them from reaching the area. The Civil Administration, an Israeli military body that manages Palestinian civilian affairs — including West Bank land registration — says it has not determined to whom the land belongs. According to West Bank property laws, uncultivated land can revert back to public ownership.

The outpost has quickly grown over the last two months, swelling to roughly 50 buildings for dozens of families. The outpost’s Facebook page boasts that Evyatar prevents contiguity between the surrounding Palestinian villages while connecting the Israeli settlement of Tapuah to the Za’atara Junction and Migdalim settlement.

The area around Evyatar has seen repeated clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians in recent weeks following the reestablishment of the outpost.

Palestinians near the adjacent Beita hurled stones at troops and burned swaths of land, while Israeli soldiers responded with riot dispersal munitions and, in some cases, live bullets. In recent weeks, four Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire in the clashes.

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