Hundreds of settlers participated in 14 marches across the West Bank on Monday to protest Palestinian construction in Area C, which is under Israeli security control. The slogan of the marches was “Fighting for state lands.” No incidents were recorded during the marches.
The main march started at Tapuach Junction, heading to the illegal outpost of Evyatar. Several dozen settlers marched through olive groves in the area and finished the march at a rally attended by settler leader Yossi Dagan and activist Sheffi Paz, with singer Ariel Zilber providing entertainment.
Neora, a mother of three from the settlement of Rehelim, came to march with her family. “We came because we love this country; we’re bothered by the fact that no new settlements are being built. We’re not really a free people in our land, [as the national anthem says].” She complained that the residents of the nearby Palestinian village of Beita set up a nighttime harassment unit that burns tires around her settlement all the time, resulting in thick smoke, in an effort to make the settlers leave. She said villagers also use lasers and other lights to harass the settlers.
Other marches were held in the Jordan Valley, the South Hebron Hills and near Ma’aleh Adumim. The marches were organized by right-wing groups such as Hashomer Yehuda VeShomron, Im Tirzu and Regavim, as well as various regional councils that oversee the settlements. The Israel Defense Forces said that no permits were necessary to hold the marches, and that no special measures were required on their part.
The target of some of these marches were lands defined by the Civil Administration as “survey lands,” or territory requiring an investigation prior to determining whether it is state-owned. Examining the status of these lands is a lengthy process called a land survey. Settlers wish to expedite the process so that land in the West Bank can become state-owned. This is what happened at Evyatar, which was erected in early May. The outpost sprang up near Beita, south of Nablus. After settlers took over land in the area, the examination of its status began.
According to Civil Administration data from 2011, there are 1.3 million dunams (320,000 acres) of state land across the West Bank. From 1967 to that year, only 0.25 percent of that land was allocated to Palestinians, in contrast to 46 percent given to settlers. For each dunam given to a Palestinian, 370 were given to settlers.
Central Command chief Maj. Gen. Tamir Yadai rejected a petition presented by settlers from Evyatar regarding an injunction ordering them to be evicted.
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In response to the residents’ criticism of the order, Yadai said they had “blatantly and seriously violated the law, and within a short period built dozens of buildings inhabited by dozens of families.” The fact that the settlers have continued building at the site even after they had received a demarcation order, which was to lead to the eviction of the outpost, showed “a lack of good faith and contributes to the violation of public order and the rule of law in the area,” Yadai added.
The deputy legal counsel responsible for the West Bank, Lt. Col. Lahat Shemesh, said that the outpost had destabilized the security of the area, leading to dozens of instances of disruptions. This required allocation of forces that were taken away from other operational missions.
The outpost evoked protests among Palestinians in the area, which led to the death of four men from IDF gunfire. Last week, 16-year-old Ahmed Zahi Bani Shamsa from Beita succumbed to wounds he sustained a day earlier after being shot by a soldier. The army said Shamsa ran toward a soldier and threw an explosive device before being shot.