IDF Completes Evacuation of West Bank Outpost Oz Tzion

Neither clashes nor arrests take place, as army makes point of regaining sovereignty over site.

The Israel Defense Forces completed the evacuation of the West Bank outpost Oz Tzion overnight Saturday, after 200 or so young people who came on Friday with the intention of stopping the community's evacuation left voluntarily.

The IDF returned to the site late Saturday night and completed the evacuation, clearing out the remaining structures. After some 200 activists had left the hill earlier in the evening, only 15 remained as the army seized the moment and Border Police demolished two buildings.

No violence erupted during the final evacuation and no one was arrested. The military deemed it important to evacuate the site on the night between Saturday and Sunday in order to regain sovereignty over the site, after it withdrew on Friday during a confrontation with youth activists.

On Friday morning the commander of the IDF Judea and Samaria Division, Brig. Gen. Hagai Mordechai, ordered the forcible evacuation of the outpost. The soldiers, outnumbered by the young people who came to prevent them from doing so, left. Some of the supporters hurled rocks at Border Police officers, lightly injuring five.

Friday’s failed evacuation attempt was the third by the state to date. About 25 families live in Oz Tzion, which was built on private Palestinian land without building permits.

Settlers expressed anger on Saturday at what they called politicians’ exploitation of the incident. Benny Gal, who lives on Givat Assaf, told Haaretz, “The politicians are making a grave mistake in causing confrontation between the army and settlers to promote their election.”

Gal said soldiers fired two tear gas grenades, injuring several children. He said this exemplified the extent to which incitement by politicians had caused soldiers to confuse “friends for foes.”

Leaders of centrist parties attacked Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett and the right-wing rabbis behind the protesters.

Labor Party chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich, who until now has delivered only ambiguous messages in reference to West Bank settlers, was harsh in her criticism of the violence against security forces.

“The evacuation was necessary, but it does not erase the shame of assaulting Border Police officers,” Yacimovich said, adding that lawbreakers must be prosecuted.

Hatnuah party chairwoman Tzipi Livni said that “the extreme right that took over Likud and Habayit Hayehudi is confronting IDF soldiers, doing as it pleases in the occupied territories. ... These are Bennett’s rabbis, this is Netanyahu’s submission, and it is all of us who pay the price of this thuggish political blackmail.”

Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz said: “The extremism that is taking control of the political debate among right-wing candidates increases the motivation to use violence against the IDF. ... Raising a hand against IDF soldiers and the security forces is tantamount to raising a hand against the State of Israel, and it must be punished with prison time.”

Moti Milrod
Michal Fattal