Some 2,500 Border Police officers converged on Netiv Ha’avot Tuesday morning to begin carrying out the court-ordered demolition of 15 illegally built homes in the West Bank outpost.
The unarmed officers situated in three rings surrounding the outpost, a neighborhood of the Elazar settlement located in the Etzion Bloc south of Jerusalem.
A police spokesperson said she was not expecting the evacuation to begin before 9 a.m.
Arriving hours before the officers were hundreds of teens from neighboring communities in the Gush Etzion bloc who will be protesting the demolition.
The number of youths is expected to grow well into the thousands as the bulldozers near.
The 15 homes slated for evacuation were plastered with posters blasting the “absurdity” of the High Court ruling that found the homes were built on privately-owned Palestinian land, a ruling the settlers argue was reached by a “leftist” court uninterested in compromise.
Netiv Ha’avot’s residents have called on other Israelis to join them at the evacuation, but urged the young demonstrators to avoid using violence against the police evacuaters.
Last week, the families at the outpost committed to the head of the IDF’s Central Command that there would be no violence during the demolition, but that in two of the 15 homes, demonstrators will be allowed to “passively resist.” The agreement will likely mean that officers will have to drag young demonstrators out one by one from those homes.
Tuesday’s demolition comes 21 months after the High Court of Justice first ruled that 17 buildings in the neighborhood had been constructed on land not belonging to the state and ordered that they be demolished by March 8, 2018.
Two of the structures, a small wood shop and a monument for two IDF soldiers killed fighting in Lebanon, were demolished last year.
The remaining 15 residential homes were slated to be razed last March, but the High Court granted a three month delay to arrange temporary housing for the evicted residents.
In February, the cabinet approved a proposal to begin the process of legalizing the rest of Netiv Ha’avot. The remainder of the outpost includes an additional 20 homes that were also built illegally, but do not stand on private Palestinian property but were constructed on parcels declared by Israel to be “state land.” The residents plan on utilizing the government’s authorization of an official building plan to advance the construction of 350 more homes in the neighborhood.
A group of seven Palestinians have claimed ownership of the land on which much of Netiv Ha’avot was established in 2001, insisting that they were expelled by Israeli settlers. After an extended legal process, the court ruled in their favor, leading it to order the razing.
Another hearing on the issue is expected in the coming months. A victory for the Palestinian landowners would prevent Netiv Ha’avot residents from moving forward with plans to legalize and expand the remainder of the neighborhood, which the petitioners claim was built on their property as well.
Despite the homes having been built illegally, the cabinet approved in February a large compensation package for the 15 families being evacuated, funneling nearly NIS 60 million ($17.2 million) from the Finance Ministry to the Gush Etzion Regional Council — the representative municipal body for the Elazar settlement, where Netiv Ha’avot is located.
Nearly half of those funds — NIS 29 million ($8.31 million) — went toward building temporary accommodations on an adjacent hilltop where the families will live as of Tuesday night.
An additional NIS 24 million ($6.88 million), or NIS 1.6 million ($450,000) per family, were earmarked for the families as compensation for the demolition of the homes.