West Bank Outpost of Homesh to Be Evacuated, Israel Tells Top Court

In a response to a petition, Israel tells the High Court of Justice that the outpost must be evacuated, but the state fails to mention when

הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf
Evacuation of the buildings in Homesh, on Friday.
Evacuation of the buildings in Homesh, on Friday.Credit: Police spokesperson
הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf

Israel told the High Court of Justice on Sunday that the illegal outpost of Homesh must be evacuated, responding to a petition filed by Palestinian landowners demanding to clear out the former West Bank settlement. The state, however, did not specify when the former settlement would be evacuated.

Israel also stated that an entry ban on the outpost is already being enforced under the Disengagement Law – the law that authorized the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 along four West Bank settlement, including Homesh. The high court is expected to hold a hearing on the petition on Thursday.

The only exceptions to the entry ban, the state said, are Yeshiva students and those participating in mass marches. On this note, the state clarified that in practice, Israelis are allowed to enter the settlement.

The state added that Homesh is an "open area," making it difficult to properly enforce and entry ban and prevent Israelis from entering.

Attorney Shlomo Zaharia, the lawyer representing the petitioners, said in response that "Even in the context of all the obscene responses the state has given, new records have been broken here, under the authority of the State Prosecutor's Office."

"The state admits that it acts, allows, and maintains an illegal outpost against the law while excluding landowners from their lands," Zacharia said, adding that "Every day the state does not evacuate [the outpost], it cultivates a violent hotspot that has long terrorized the residents of the [nearby] village of Burqa, and admits that despite its obligations and promises, it is allowing masses of Israelis to stay in the area illegally. There has never been such a significant mobilization of the Defense Ministry, the State Prosecutor's Office, and the High Court of Justice for the preservation of political and ideological interests – at the expense of Palestinians, a weakened group without political power and voice."

In February, the government said that at the time, it was permitting a yeshiva to operate at the Homesh site in the northern West Bank but was preventing any new construction. The state noted that any decision to evacuate the yeshiva was for the defense minister, Benny Gantz, to make.
At the beginning of last week, Gantz said that Homesh would be evacuated. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid also said that he believed that the outpost should be cleared.

For her part, however, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s right-wing Yamina party, took issue with that position several days later. “We are doing everything so that Homesh is not evacuated. The continued existence of the yeshiva there is symbolic and significant,” she said. “This yeshiva has been evacuated a huge number of times. We need to put an end to that and permit the yeshiva’s students to study.”

On Saturday, the Israeli police and the army prevented dozens of left-wing activists, including Meretz Knesset members Mossi Raz and Gaby Lasky and Ofer Kassif of the Joint List, from demonstrating there. Prior to that, the police arrested Yishay Hadas of the Crime Minister organization, which had campaigned for the ouster of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Also arrested were two truck drivers who had brought in a bulldozer with which the protesters planned to demolish the buildings at the site.

The three met in the northeastern Tel Aviv suburb of Rosh Ha’ayin along with members of the anti-occupation organization Peace Now, but they were arrested before setting out for Homesh. The police also impounded the bulldozer.

On Friday, a group of settlers attempted to enter Homesh, many of them successfully, despite claims by the Israeli army that they had deployed troops in the area to prevent outsiders from reaching the site. According to sources at the Homesh yeshiva, about 200 settlers spend Shabbat there.

At the same time, clashes broke out between the army and Palestinians at the nearby village of Burka as the army dispersed the demonstrators. The Palestinians reported that 10 people were injured.

Last week the head of the army’s Central Command, Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs, said that a demonstration by left-wing activists at Homesh would be illegal as a result of the Disengagement Law, which bars Israelis from the site.

In December, a terrorist attack was carried out at the entrance to Homesh that killed yeshiva student Yehuda Dimentman. Since then, the army has been making an exception for yeshiva students entering Homesh and has also allowed several large marches to the outpost.

In April, thousands of demonstrators took part in a mass march to Homesh under the protection of Israeli soldiers, following Defense Minister Benny Gantz's reversal of an initial military warning that the troops would not protect the marchers.

Clashes broke out between Palestinians and military forces in the area during the march. The march's organizers shuttled far-right demonstrators to the event, and far-right lawmakers Idit Silman and Itamar Ben Gvir were in attendance.

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