Israel Demolishes Settler Homes Built on Private Palestinian Land

Two arrested after reportedly attacking police, who say that five officers were slightly injured.

Israeli forces demolish houses built on private Palestinian land in the West Bank settlement of Ofra, March 1, 2017.
Olivier Fitoussi

Security forces started demolishing nine houses built on private Palestinian land in the West Bank settlement of Ofra on Wednesday, in keeping with the High Court of Justice’s ruling.

One of the houses was torn down on Tuesday. Dozens of youngsters who climbed onto the roof of one of the houses on the night between Tuesday and Wednesday and refused to leave were taken down by midday.

The evacuation and demolition were carried out smoothly for the most part. Two individuals, one of them a 17 year old, were arrested after having reportedly attacked police officers. The police reported that five officers were slightly injured.

On Monday the High Court of Justice denied the homeowners’ petition to have the houses sealed rather than destroyed. The state itself said in court that it objected to the petitioners’ request, which was legally groundless.

Supreme Court President Justice Miriam Naor wrote in her ruling on Tuesday that the petitioners based their request solely on an interpretation of the controversial land-confiscation law. The recently passed law, which enables the state to confiscate private Palestinian land and “legalize” settlements built on it, is being disputed in the High Court and the attorney general has said he would not defend it.

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.
RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS

“In my opinion the law does not apply to the (Ofra) houses and doesn’t enable legalizing them retroactively,” Naor said.

The Ofra action committee on Wednesday accused the police of violence against the people they evacuated from the settlement. The police have rejected the accusation utterly, calling it groundless and stating that the violence was aimed at the police.

“The police special patrol unit (Yasam) exercised harsh, unjustified violence against youths and adults who wanted to express their democratic right to protest nonviolently against the Ofra houses‘ demolition,” the Ofra settlers’ statement said.

“The settlers acted in a restrained manner, but regrettably the evacuation forces stormed the people at the Kfir family’s house (the house on whose rooftop the youngsters had climbed) aggressively and treated them violently for no reason. Seventeen youths were injured. The Ofra committee calls on the prime minister, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and the police commissioner to examine the violent incidents thoroughly.”

The police said in response: “The police carried out the evacuation with full transparency and gave access to the media, which filmed all its stages. Ten injured persons were taken to hospital, eight of them police officers. The violence was aimed at the police, and anyone who was at the scene could see that for himself.”