Thousands plan march to dismantled West Bank settlement over IDF’s initial objection
After brigade commander warns organizers of Tuesday parade to Homesh they’re knowingly putting their lives at risk, Defense Ministry reaches deal to have army secure event
Thousands of people plan to take part Tuesday in a march to the dismantled West Bank settlement of Homesh, despite the initial objections of the military.
Among the expected participants are lawmakers from the far-right Religious Zionism party, including its chairman Bezalel Smotrich.
The IDF had warned organizers that it would not be able to secure the event, which is set to start at the Shavei Shomron settlement at 11 a.m. and run along 14 kilometers (some 8.5 miles) past several Palestinian villages.
But later Monday, Haaretz reported that Homesh yeshiva organizers reached an agreement with the Defense Ministry, which will see to it that the IDF secures the march as the settlers pass the Palestinian villages, despite the military’s concern that the event will spark further West Bank clashes.
Homesh returned to headlines last December, when a Palestinian terrorist opened fire at a convoy ferrying students back from the yeshiva, killing Israeli Yehuda Dimentan.
The deadly attack prompted renewed calls by ultranationalist lawmakers to resurrect the settlements dismantled in 2005.
The march will amount to a violation of military law, which bars Israelis from returning to the grounds of the four settlements the government vacated in 2005 as part of the Gaza Disengagement. In practice, the law has barely been upheld, with the yeshiva operating illegally at the Homesh hilltop for the past 15 years, often receiving protection from the IDF. Court rulings granting access to Palestinian farmers to reach their lands at the evacuated settlements have also rarely been implemented.
In a recent letter to the march’s organizers at the Homesh yeshiva, the Samaria Regional Brigade Commander Maj. Roy Zweig warned that forces were stretched too thin securing various Passover events, due to the high alert for terror attacks across the West Bank.
Zweig warned organizers that they were “knowingly endangering a large group of people who are not familiar with the many security threats involved,” while “misleading the public to believe the event is approved and secured.”
He added that “those choosing to bypass IDF forces situated in the area and to walk through dangerous routes in and near villages are putting their lives at risk.”
But organizers said that they still planned to go forward with the event, regardless of whether the army would secure the march.
According to the national religious news website Kipa, parents of several settlers killed in terror attacks, in a letter to the prime minister and defense minister Monday, expressed surprise that the military was complaining of a lack of manpower while devoting “much larger forces to enable Muslim holidays,” and while removing the closure on the West Bank for Palestinians.
“Is a festive protest march of the Israeli people on Passover worth less than Muslim celebrations?” they asked.