Beit El Quiet Once More as Seven Hours of Demolition End Five-year Legal Battle, 48-hour of Clashes

Settler occupation of site of former settlement Sa-Nur loses traction, as demand for return to north Samaria ignored.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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Israeli settlers scuffle with Israeli security forces  as the demolition started in the settlement of Beit El, on 29 July, 2015.
Israeli settlers scuffle with Israeli security forces as the demolition started in the settlement of Beit El, on 29 July, 2015.Credit: AFP
Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

After eight hours later, Israeli authorities complete the demolition of two buildings in Beit El Wednesday; five years after demolition orders were first issued.

The end of the demolition work also marked the end of 48 hours of confrontations between settlers and Israeli security personnel, which began on Monday when the IDF occupied the buildings and cleared it from teenagers, who were planning on barricading themselves in the building to prevent the demolition. On Tuesday, the clashes resumed when police special forces rushed into Beit El and positioned themselves near the building.

On Wednesday morning, at 9:45 A.M. the High Court rejected the appeal of the contractor who built the buildings to stop their demolition. The judges, headed by Supreme Court President Miriam Naor, rejected the appeal and refused to hold a hearing. They didn't explain why the issuing of building permits for the buildings retroactively didn't justify the rescinding of the demolition order.

"The current appeal changes nothing legally," wrote Judge Esther Chayut. "One must remember what this hearing is about: We are discussing two structures that were illegally built by a construction company, and after years of discussions the court decided no more."

The court's decision singled the beginning of the military operation. The roads surrounding Beit El were closed to traffic and a thick perimeter of police officers surrounded the buildings.

An Israeli settler is arrested by Israeli security forces as the demolition started in the settlement of Beit El, on 29 July, 2015.Credit: AFP

At first, violent clashes broke out as officers made way for an armored vehicles armed with a high-power water cannon to put out a fire started by the demonstrators. Some 100 teenagers stormed the police lines, some hurling stones at the officers. The police officers pushed back, with help from the water cannon.

An Israeli settler is arrested by Israeli security forces as the demolition started. AFP

Several protesters were arrested. Several protesters were pinned down and beaten by police officers. In one case, a police officer slammed his helmet into the face of an arrested demonstrator.

After about an hour, the confrontations were over. The overwhelming force of the police and the overbearing heat decimated the demonstrators' resolve, and all that was left for them was to stand on the sidelines and watch as four heavy equipment vehicles destroyed the structures. The excavators slowly picked apart the buildings over seven hours. As the day progressed, the protesters turned bystanders left for their homes. By 7:00 P.M. the show was over.

Despite the fact that the contractor received building permits, he will not be able to rebuild the buildings that were just demolished. On Sunday, the High Court issued a temporary injunction in response to an appeal by the Palestinian owner of the land and the non-profit Yesh Din, who asked the court to nullify the building permits. The petitioners are claiming that there is no legal justification for the military taking position of the land and that the state must return it to its legal owners. Judge Anat Baron ordered that no construction take place there, at least until August 5.

Meanwhile, 200 settlers remain on the site of the demolished settlement Sa-Nur since Tuesday night. They demand that the state form a committee that will discuss the returning of settlers to northern Samaria in return for their leaving the place peacefully. This protest isn't gaining traction, even among settlers, and will likely come to an end soon whether in the hands of the police or whether voluntarily by the settlers themselves.

Israeli heavy machinery demolish vacant apartment blocs by order of Israel's high court. Reuters

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