Illegal buildings demolished at two West Bank outposts

Settlers contemplate another demolition at the Migron outpost. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

JERUSALEM (JWN and agencies)—In the new unity government’s first test in the territories, security forces demolished two illegal structures in the settlement outposts of Migron and Oz Zion. Six settlers were arrested for disturbing the peace and violating a closed military zone during the action, which took place Thursday morning before dawn.

Police said that the structures were built without the necessary permits. Illegal buildings in Migron have been destroyed by the authorities several times before, but were later rebuilt by the settlers.

The action came just as the Israel Police finished setting up a special task force to deal with West Bank demolitions. It was decided to establish the force in anticipation of the large number of illegal outpost and settlement demolitions expected to take place by the end of 2012.

The task force will coordinate the demolitions, deployment of forces, means of action, and crowd control, among other things. It will include police SWAT teams, Border Police units, and civilian demolition contractors.

Last week, the High Court of Justice gave the government until July 1 to demolish five buildings built on Palestinian-owned land in the Ulpana outpost of the Beit El settlement near Ramallah in the West Bank.

By August 1, the rest of Migron is also set to be demolished. Although Migron residents have agreed to relocate to a nearby settlement following negotiations with the government conducted by Likud MK Benny Begin, the IDF is not taking any chances. It is preparing for an evacuation by force if necessary, as well as for protests by settlement sympathizers around the country.

The situation regarding other settlement outposts is unclear. The state is required to demolish the Givat Assaf outpost by July 1 and the Amona outpost by the end of the year, but there have been no negotiations with the residents. The July 1 deadline for the demolitions at Ulpana and Givat Assaf are likely to put the government before its next difficult test.

The task force is headed by Commander Yoram Ohayon, the head of the Israel Police’s Yarkon District. He was responsible for handling the social protests that swept the country last summer, during which his officers were noted for employing force against protesters in Tel Aviv. He is not expected to tolerate any opposition by settlers to enforcing the court’s demolition orders.

Ultimately, however, the Israel Police serves to assist in the evacuation and demolition of settlements and outposts, but is under the authority of the IDF.