Israeli forces evacuated day-old encampments and detained several activists on Thursday morning, after thousands of far-right settlers affiliated with the Nachala settler organization attempted to set up five new outposts across the West Bank on Wednesday. The evacuation put a stop to an operation the movement had been preparing over the course of recent months.
During the evacuation, 11 activists were detained and later released. Near the Barkan settlement in the northern West Bank, Israeli forces and activists reportedly scuffled, leading to three activists being lightly wounded. An encampment which was set up in Kiryat Arba and immediately evacuated yesterday was rebuilt overnight by activists who remained in the area.
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked took to Twitter to criticize what she said was a violent evacuation of the makeshift outposts. "The police should save their energy to eradicate real crime in the country," Shaked wrote. "The wonderful youth who have mobilized to settle this country are a real inspiration."
Public Security Minister Omar Bar-Lev charged back at Shaked for her remarks, arguing that "a senior minister in the government should not encourage breaches of law and criminal activity on the backs of dedicated police officers – only because she is desperate to flatter her base and pass the electoral threshold."
On Wednesday thousands of activists, most of them teenagers, set up tents in six locations across the West Bank as part of a months-long plan by the Nachala settlement movement to establish new outposts.
Israeli settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal by international law, but Israeli law recognizes them. Independent attempts by settlers to set up new settlement outposts are generally deemed illegal, but some illegal outposts have achieved legal status through state recognition.
On Tuesday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz instructed police and military forces to block the establishment of the outposts, which the Nachala movement has been publicly announcing in recent months. It also led a complex fundraising campaign, raising 5 million shekels ($1.45 million) for the campaign while enlisting thousands of volunteers.
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The group held conferences and gatherings aimed at recruiting people for their latest operation, instructing participants to stock up on water and food that would last until Friday afternoon, and prepare for a "long stay."