Isolated by Winter Storm, Thousands of Jewish Settlers Abandon Their Homes

Settlers have left both prefab homes and permanent housing, aided by the Israel Defense Forces and volunteers.

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Thousands of settlers have left their homes in the West Bank due to the winter storm that dumped more than a foot of snow in some areas of the region.

Tens of thousands of settlers are still afflicted by blocked roads, blackouts and disruptions to the water and telecommunications networks. Children were not expected to return to school Monday in most West Bank settlements.

Since Saturday night, evacuated communities include a large number of illegal outposts and neighborhoods. Settlers have left both prefab homes and permanent housing, aided by the Israel Defense Forces and volunteers.

Dozens of communities were completely cut off, including more established ones with good infrastructure. During the Sabbath, an IDF helicopter evacuated a family in the Benjamin region; all members were suffering from hypothermia.

In the settlement of Nokdim, a 78-year-old man died of a heart attack during the storm; it took a day until the body could be removed because the cellphone network was out. An IDF special operations unit evacuated the residents of the settlement of Meitzad; this included two women in the final weeks of pregnancy.

The authorities have forgotten about us, a resident of the Shomron region said. All aid and rescue activities had to do with our own resources.

Meanwhile, most residents of isolated communities such as Meitzad and Pnei Kedem in the Gush Etzion region were evacuated, as were neighborhoods and illegal outposts near Eli and Shiloh, as well as Nofei Nehemia in the Shomron region.

In older communities such as Einav, the evacuation of residents started Saturday night after the Israel Electric Corporation said it did not expect to repair the power lines in the next few days. IDF forces, aided by generators, are guarding settlements, including those temporarily empty.

On Sunday, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett toured the settlements hit by the storm.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian agriculture minister said damages to Palestinian farmers in the West Bank had reached 42 million shekels ($12 million), with the number expected to rise because many afflicted areas had not yet been reached. Most of the problems were in the south, where some 800 greenhouses are estimated to have collapsed, with many crops severely damaged by the cold.

A settler in the West Bank community of Givat Asaf, December 15, 2013.Credit: Daniel Tchetchik
The West Bank community of Givat Asaf, December 15, 2013.Credit: Daniel Tchetchik

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