Police operation on Rothschild Boulevard September 7, 2011 (Eran Avraham)
Rothschild Boulevard, Wednesday morning, September 7, 2011. Photo by Eran Avraham
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Police raided the tent encampment on Rothschild Boulevard in central Tel Aviv early on Wednesday morning and cleared some of the remaining tents there.

The police were accompanied by municipal inspectors and cleaning workers.

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Tents and other equipment were also cleared from encampments at Nordau Boulevard, Ben-Gurion Boulevard and Levinsky Park in Tel Aviv.

The Tel Aviv municipality said that the operation was conducted to clear abandoned tents.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai told Army Radio that the tent encampments were not being dismantled, saying that the purpose of the operation was "cleaning up".

"We cleared empty tents," Huldai said. "As of now, we are not carrying out forcible evictions or issuing eviction orders. We will do that if we need to. This is not a unilateral step. We are merely cleaning the boulevards."

At around 3:30 A.M., municipal workers started to load tents onto three trucks, Yishai Sakali, a founder of the tent encampment on Nordau Boulevard, said. The tents contained personal possessions and many were occupied, according to Sakali.

“Those guarding the tent protest city, and the people sleeping there, woke up from the noise of the workmen and prevented them from continuing [the clearing],” Sakali added.

“Half of the original tent protest site is left. They took it down with no court injunction, with no warning, including personal possessions, including the destruction of tents that cannot be restored and this was after a clear guarantee that we got from the municipality that there would not be any eviction without coordination,” Sakali said.

Some of the tent city dwellers plan on going to the police to present complaints over theft of property. “We are continuing the tent city activities as usual,” Sakali added.

Yoav Fekete, from the Rothschild Boulevard encampment, said that municipal workers and police came to the site a little before 5 A.M. They started to clear away tents on the southern portion of the boulevard, making their way northward.

“People came out of the tents to go to work, the inspectors came two minutes after that and loaded the tents onto trucks with all the personal belongings in them," Fekete said. "They put tents that were intact into garbage trucks. Yesterday, they passed here and distributed notices saying that they want to cooperate with us and then they cleared tents away illegally. They are laughing at us and there is nothing we can do. We are not violent people.”

For the last seven weeks, tent camps have sprouted up along the boulevards of Tel Aviv and other cities, as part of a protest against the lack of affordable housing and the high cost of living in the country. The protests reached a climax on Saturday night, September 3, with demonstrations that were attended by almost half a million people across the country.

On Tuesday, inspectors working on behalf of Tel Aviv municipality distributed notices at the city’s remaining social protest camps, offering assistance to activists in dismantling their tents. The notices, which had a flower attached to each one, were distributed at the Rothschild Boulevard and Nordau Boulevard tent encampments.

Many of those remaining in the tent camps are not rushing to respond to the municipality's call to dismantle the tents, and declare that they do not intend to take down their tents in the coming days. The municipality did not clarify whether it would actively dismantle the tents if their owners do not take them down of their own accord.