Policeman Hurt as Settler Youth Turn Violent at Demolition Protest

A Border Police officer was lightly wounded during a protest in the West Bank settlement of Beit El, as security forces attempted to demolish an illegal structure there.

This was the first clash in nearly a month. Two settler youths were arrested following the incident, on suspicion of hurling rocks at the special police unit.

The forces were on site to enforce demolition of a cabin and the foundations of another structure that were put in place following the government's declaration of the settlement freeze last December. The Border Police officer was hurt when a settler hurled a rock at him.

Amid the demolition, some 100 teenagers and residents arrived in an effort to block the officers' exit from the settlement.

After lengthy negotiations, Beit El's chief rabbi agreed to convince the teenagers to let the security forces leave, though that effort was to no avail. Instead, they began throwing stones at the security forces. The forces in turn sprayed the teenagers with tear gas.

The state once again came under scrutiny over its application of building laws throughout the West Bank. The Supreme Court criticized the state yesterday over what it believes is the lax enforcement.

The court deliberated over two petitions, the first of which was filed by the pro-settler group Regavim against Palestinian construction in six sites, all of which abut the Green Line, the separation fence, and West Bank highways. The attorney representing Regavim, Amir Fisher, claimed that the construction poses a security risk.

"When we are dealing with Jewish construction, [the state] knows to enforce the laws," he said. "But the state doesn't care about Palestinian construction, even when we're dealing with the most extreme cases."

Fisher said the state issued a demolition order for some of the Palestinian structures as early as 2001.

The state replied that it does not enforce building laws in these specific cases because the structures are located within the administrative borders of the West Bank town of El Bireh.

The most senior justice on the panel, Ayala Procaccia, appeared to lose her patience.

"I don't understand your argument," she told state attorney Nachi Ben-Or. "What does that response mean, 'We don't enforce building laws in El Bireh'?"

"There is no enforcement in El Bireh," Ben-Or said.

"It is difficult to accept the claim that the reason [for not enforcing the law] is that it is in the El Bireh town limits," said Justice Yoram Danziger.

Ben-Or said he had no response to the judges, who vowed to re-evaluate the details of the case before issuing their ruling.

The court also heard a petition filed by left-wing group Yesh Din, which demanded the state enforce a demolition order against a synagogue that was built illegally in the outpost of El Matan. According to Yesh Din lawyers Michael Sfard and Shlomi Zachary, Palestinian residents of neighboring villages are being harassed by outpost residents.

The attorneys also claimed that a cease and desist order was issued by the state against the outpost, which was subsequently violated.

The state replied that it intends to seal the synagogue.

The court said that it would revisit the issue in 60 days, when it will determine what to do with the case.