Illegal West Bank outpost demolished, the second in 48 hours

Residents of Sde Yonatan and activists at the site complain of Border Police violence, with one person treated

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

Border Police forces evacuate and demolish the illegal West Bank outpost of Sde Yonatan, December 26, 2023. (Courtesy)
Border Police forces evacuate and demolish the illegal West Bank outpost of Sde Yonatan, December 26, 2023. (Courtesy)

The small illegal West Bank outpost of Sde Yonatan was evacuated and demolished Tuesday morning by Border Police and Civil Administration forces, the second such demolition of an illegal outpost in the territory in less than 48 hours.

Sde Yonatan, which lies close to the settlement of Michmash northeast of Jerusalem, has been built and demolished several times in the last two years and was most recently reestablished shortly after the beginning of the current war with Hamas.

According to the Civil Administration, the outpost is built on private Palestinian land.

At least 22 Border Police officers and Civil Administration personnel arrived at the outpost in the early hours of Tuesday morning and presented the residents of the site, comprising a handful of young settler activists, with an IDF order declaring the area a closed military zone.

Phones belonging to the residents and activists were confiscated to prevent them from documenting the demolition operation, the activists alleged.

Two rudimentary residential buildings and a goat pen were demolished by the Civil Administration.

A United Hatzalah paramedic treats an injured youth after Border Police and Civil Administration forces evacuated and demolished the illegal West Bank outpost of Sde Yonatan, December 26, 2023. (Courtesy)

According to settler activists, the Border Police acted violently when evacuating the residents of the outpost, punching and kicking them, and threw some of them to the ground.

The activists reported that three people were injured by the police during the incident, but that a Magen David Adom ambulance and a United Hatzalah paramedic were held up by Border Police forces for some 40 minutes before being allowed access, a claim that The Times of Israel verified.

Paramedic Netanel Boukaya said the 15-year old he treated had had stitches in his hand from an unrelated incident last week, but that the stitches had been broken open when the police detained him during the enforcement operation.

Boukaya said that the youth, a diabetic, was also suffering from high blood pressure and was pale and shaking, likely due to not having eaten before security forces arrived.

The paramedic said he only treated one person at the incident.

Ten people were detained at the site during the course of the enforcement operation, seven of whom were released after the demolition had been completed. The other three were taken to the Benjamin Region police station, including the injured youth.

Border Police and Civil Administration forces evacuate and demolish the illegal West Bank outpost of Sde Yonatan, December 26, 2023. (Courtesy)

The Samaria District Police did not immediately confirm the detention of the three residents, or the reason for it.

Following the demolition of a nearby small illegal outpost on Monday close to Ofra, a group of activists wrote to Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, the leader of the pro-settlement Religious Zionism party, to protest the enforcement operations.

They described the demolitions as “a crime of the first order” and called on Smotrich to bring an end to them.

Smotrich also serves as a second minister in the Defense Ministry and, according to coalition agreements, has authority over some aspects of the decision-making process for evacuating and demolishing illegal outposts.

The commander of IDF Central Command, Yehuda Fox, has the authority to approve demolitions when the existence of the outpost entails “security considerations.”

Smotrich’s office did not respond to the letter or a request for comment by The Times of Israel.

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