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Police raze wildcat West Bank outpost established in memory of slain rabbi

New Maale Shai outpost was put up in Palestinian-controlled Area B a day after Shai Ohayon, 39, was stabbed to death in Petah Tikva

Border Police evict teenagers from Ma'ale Shai, an illegal outpost established in Palestinian-controlled Area B in the West Bank (Israel Police)
Border Police evict teenagers from Ma'ale Shai, an illegal outpost established in Palestinian-controlled Area B in the West Bank (Israel Police)

Border Police on Thursday demolished a newly erected illegal outpost on an isolated hilltop in the West Bank, after a small group of teenagers and families set up seven caravans at the site and named it in memory of an Israeli man stabbed to death by a Palestinian man the day before.

At times, the border guards encountered violent opposition to the eviction, with the settlers resisting their removal, police said. Video footage from the eviction also showed a Border Police officer striking at least one settler repeatedly during a struggle. One border guard was lightly injured in the scuffles, according to police.

“Troops demolished and cleared out all seven structures. The boards used to build the structures were confiscated by the Civil Administration,” the police said, referring to a Defense Ministry body responsible for day-to-day governance of the West Bank, which is formally under military control.

The hastily constructed outpost was located in the Binyamin area of the central West Bank, a hilly region northeast of Jerusalem. It was called Maale Shai after Rabbi Shai Ohayon, 39, who was stabbed to death in the Tel Aviv suburb of Petah Tikva on Wednesday.

The hilltop on which the outpost was set up lies between the Palestinian villages of Sinjil and Abaween, north of Ramallah. The caravans were erected on land belonging to residents of Abaween, which is in Area B, an Abaween municipality official told The Times of Israel.

“This is private Palestinian land belonging to a resident of the village,” said Nasir Abu Mohammad, a municipality official.

As the village is in West Bank’s Area B — subject to Israeli security control but Palestinian civilian control — Thursday marked the first time Abaween has seen an outpost built nearby, Abu Mohammad said.

Border Police arrived Thursday afternoon to demolish the newly built outpost, police said.

The settlers holed up inside and on top of the buildings.

According to police, one of the settlers who was staying in the outpost returned several times after being evicted and was “arrested after he went berserk and used physical violence against the troops.”

Around 150 demonstrators from Abaween and two other villages in the area demonstrated on the land on Thursday afternoon in response to the new outpost.

“We’ve seen what happens in Area C [where Israel has both security and civil control] — the settlers come, they expand over the hills, they destroy trees and burn cars. They shoot at us and cause problems,” Abu Mohammad said.

‘A humble, kind man’

Ohayon, the victim of Wednesday’s stabbing, was a father of four and a member of Petah Tikva’s ultra-Orthodox community who studied full time at a religious institution known as a kollel in the nearby town of Kfar Saba, according to Haredi news outlets.

Rabbi Shai Ohayon, who was stabbed to death in an apparent terror attack at Segula Junction on August 26, 2020. (Courtesy)

Ohayon’s funeral was held in Petah Tikva’s Segula Cemetery in the early hours of Thursday morning, with 40 people in attendance and over 150 more outside the burial ground due to coronavirus restrictions. He is survived by his wife Sivan and their four children: Tohar, 13, Hillel, 11, Shiloh, 9, and Malachi, 4.

Evyatar Cohen, Ohayon’s former neighbor, said at the funeral, “He was a humble man, kind and quiet. It turns out there was a genius among us and we didn’t know it.”

Police arrested Khalil Abd al-Khaliq Dweikat, 46, a resident of the northern West Bank village of Rujeeb outside Nablus and a father of six, and said the attack had a terror motive. Dweikat had a legal work permit for Israel and no history of terrorist activities.

The Shin Bet security service said it was looking into the possibility that he had a history of mental illness, but that it was “too soon to tell” if that could explain the attack.

It is highly unusual for Palestinians with legal work permits to carry out attacks in Israel, having undergone significant background checks and regular screenings by Israeli security services. It is similarly uncommon for these kinds of attacks to be carried out by middle-aged men; typically assailants are in their teens or twenties.

IDF troops raided Dweikat’s home and began planning to demolish the structure, the military said Thursday.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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