Hundreds Barricaded as Israel Evacuates West Bank Settlement Homes

Police said the evacuation had proceeded relatively calmly, but that at least 11 officers had sustained light injures including bites by protesters, and one police officer suffered a head wound.

Pro-settlement activists gather in a house in the settlement of Ofra during an operation by Israeli forces to demolish nine homes there, February 28, 2017.
Olivier Fitoussi

Hundreds of police officers on Tuesday evacuated nine homes slated for demolition in the West Bank settlement of Ofra. The High Court of Justice had ordered the destruction of the homes, which were built on privately owned Palestinian land.

Hundreds of youths barricaded themselves in one of the houses. The families that had been living in the other eight homes had made it clear they sought a quiet evacuation.

Police said the evacuation had proceeded relatively calmly, but that at least 11 officers had sustained light injures including bites by protesters, and one police officer suffered a head wound. 

Israeli policemen remove a pro-settlement activist during an operation by Israeli forces to evict residents from several homes in the Israeli settlement of Ofra, in the occupied West Bank February 28, 2017.
Olivier Fitoussi

A few dozen youths had to be dragged out of the houses by police. Others walked out on their own, accompanied by police. Two protesters were arrested for assaulting officers, police said. The evacuation continued until late Tuesday evening because a few dozen mostly school-age youths remained on the roof of one of the houses.

Some shouted at the police to refuse orders, or called out, “Take off the uniform,” “You are a shame to the uniform,” “You help murderers, if there’s a terror attack tomorrow, it will be your fault.” 

However, in general the protesters heeded calls from the leadership at Ofra not to resort to physical violence. 

Israeli policemen stand during the evacuation of residents from several homes in the Israeli settlement of Ofra, in the West Bank, February 28, 2017.
Olivier Fitoussi

Toward evening, worried mothers gathered at the house still to be evacuated. “With all due respect, come down now,” one mother told her son, who complied. “Grandpa says you have to come down now,” a teenage girl told her brother, and he too complied. 

On Monday, the High Court of Justice rejected a request by the occupants of the nine homes to have the buildings sealed rather than torn down. The court had ordered the homes demolished by Sunday.

The homes in question were built illegally in 2008, and the same year the Palestinian landowners and the Yesh Din human rights group petitioned the High Court for their removal. Although the court issued an interim injunction against occupying the buildings, the families moved in anyway.

Israeli security forces gather at the settlement of Ofra during an operation by Israeli forces to demolish nine homes there, February 28, 2017.
Olivier Fitoussi

The High Court ordered the demolition of the nine homes two years ago. They were supposed to have been evacuated and dismantled no later than February 8, but the deadline was deferred for a month.