IDF troops helped build an illegal West Bank outpost now slated for demolition

Military says soldiers guarding Evyatar ‘strayed from their orders’ and will be investigated; troops filmed helping set up prefabricated housing

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

Israeli soldiers helped settlers construct buildings in an illegal West Bank outpost that the Defense Ministry has ordered raised, the Haaretz newspaper reported Friday, publishing pictures of the troops.

The images showed several soldiers helping settlers carry prefabricated structures as they set up homes in the Evyatar outpost.

The Israel Defense Forces said in response that “the soldiers deviated from their mission and the incident did not take place with the permission of their commander.”

The army said it was investigating the incident and would take disciplinary measures against the soldiers if necessary.

The outpost has been the scene of frequent Palestinian protests and a 15-year old Palestinian was shot and killed during clashes with soldiers earlier Friday, the Palestinian health ministry said.

The ministry identified the slain youth as Mohammad Hamayel, 15, adding that six protesters were wounded during the village just outside the village of Beita, near the Evyatar outpost.

Mohammad Hamayel, who was killed in West Bank clashes with the IDF on June 11, 2021. (Instagram)

The official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that Israeli troops fired live rounds, tear gas and rubber-coated steel pellets at the demonstrators.

The IDF said its forces had responded to violent riots which hundreds of Palestinians took part in, hurling stones, burning tires and shooting off fireworks.

The land on which Evyatar was reestablished in April historically belonged to the adjacent Palestinian villages of Beita, Kablan and Yitma, though residents have been barred access to it for decades for what the IDF has said were security reasons.

Evyatar has already been razed several times since it was first established in 2013 after the murder of Yitzhar resident Evyatar Borovsky in a stabbing attack at the Tapuah Junction.

Illegal Evyatar outpost in northern West Bank on May 25, 2021. (“Evyatar – new town in Samaria” / Facebook)

The outpost has quickly grown over the last two months, swelling to roughly 40 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.

On Sunday, the head of the IDF’s Central Command issued a “demarcation order” barring additional construction in the Evyatar outpost and ordering all inhabitants to vacate the site with their belongings beginning next week.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has objected to the order, but the matter is expected to be a problem for the next government led by Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett to solve.

A decision on whether or not to move forward with the demolition will likely pose one of the first challenges to the new government set to be sworn in on Sunday.

While he presided over dozens of such demolitions as prime minister, Netanyahu is preparing to oppose the move from outside the government and call into question the right-wing bona fides of the new coalition led by Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett — a former director of the Yesha Council settler lobby.

While Bennett’s Yamina, New Hope and Yisrael Beytenu are longtime backers of the settlement movement, they will be sitting in a government with the left-leaning Meretz and Labor parties, which oppose Israeli construction beyond the Green Line. The centrist Blue and White and Yesh Atid parties are likely to back such a demolition as well, given that Evyatar was indisputably built illegally.

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