A new settlement outpost has been set up meters from an army base in the West Bank, on territory that, according to U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan, is supposed to be transferred to the Palestinian Authority.
The outpost, located in a valley facing Mount Ebal, near Nablus, is far from any other settlement.
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The outpost was established in late June. It initially consisted of a single shack, but a mobile home, tent and truck arrived later. It was first reported on Sicha Mekomit, the Hebrew version of the +972 website.
Initially, the outpost was located on privately owned Palestinian land that the army expropriated from residents of a nearby village, Assira al-Shamaliya, in 1978. This week, however, it was moved to a plot of state land 100 meters from the Mount Ebal base.
It can be reached either by the road through Assira al-Shamaliya or the access road to the base. But two weeks ago, the army stationed a locked metal gate across the road to the base, so settlers must now pass through the gate to reach the outpost.
When this reporter and a photographer visited the former site of the outpost this week, a military jeep with soldiers and ATV driven by a civilian appeared to be patrolling the area together, near Palestinian farmers working their land. The army ordered us to leave, saying the site was a closed military zone.
The outpost was first spotted by residents of Assira al-Shamaliya. Its mayor, Hazem Yassin, said a local shepherd reported seeing a tent with four people in it – three in their late teens and one older person – at the outpost’s first location on June 26.
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“This is the first time there has been an outpost in this area,” Yassin said. “Moreover, there are no settlements near here.”
Ever since spotting the outpost, Assira al Shamaliya residents have been holding weekly marches to the site. Following one march, on July 3, the army blocked the road from Assira al-Shamaliya to the outpost with a dirt mound. Several days later, the Palestinians removed it so farmers could reach their lands.
The Palestinians said they contacted Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank, which told them the outpost would soon be evacuated. But Monday evening, the outpost was moved to the new location.
Yassin said that when Palestinians held another march to the outpost on July 10, the army fired tear gas and stun grenades at them. Ten people were wounded, including Yassin himself, whose fingers were broken when a stun grenade hit them.
After that, the army closed the road again. But it was reopened on Monday following intervention by the Red Cross.
“It’s clear there’s no way such an outpost could be set up a few dozen meters from the most guarded base in the West Bank absent very close cooperation with the army and the Civil Administration,” said Dror Etkes of the Kerem Navot organization. “Its establishment is one link in a long, corrupt tradition of similar cooperation between the military establishment and the settlers.”
Haaretz has reported in the past on several cases in which the army allowed the establishment of outposts and even provided them with water.
Yassin said that before Israel expropriated the land in 1978, it was full of vineyards. Now, Assira al-Shamaliya residents can only tend their land there twice a year, and only after coordinating with the army. Today, therefore, they mainly grow olives rather than grapes there.
City councilman Jamal Kamal Yassin said he has twice been detained when going to tend his olive trees west of the base.
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said the Civil Administration knows about the outpost and will remove it “in accordance with the regulations, subject to its order of priorities and operational considerations.”
The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said the entry to Mount Ebal is protected by a security gate and soldiers for operational reasons. “The IDF’s goal is to ensure order and security in the region, and therefore, appropriate operational measures were taken to serve this goal,” it added.