Ofra, West Bank (GPA) – Israeli illegal settlers are getting a taste of their own medicine as they’re evicted from homes constructed in the West Bank that were deemed illegal by the Supreme Court.
Earlier today, nine settler homes in the West Bank village of Ofra were subjected to a forced evacuation by Israeli police. The houses were constructed on land found to rightfully belong to Palestinians by the Israeli Supreme Court.
The houses were occupied not by the families who had lived in the homes, but instead by several hundred protesters who had barricaded themselves in. The protesters were removed one at a time, some being peacefully escorted out while others forced the police to physically carry them off the premises.
Although these nine homes were found to be illegal they are only a small part of the Ofra settlement, which has a population of 3,000. The settlers who ‘owned’ the homes had originally hoped that the homes would not be demolished and instead just left vacant and sealed while they attempted an appeal on the court’s decision.
The appeal, which was based on a law passed by the Israeli parliament after the construction, that legalized formerly forbidden construction on land owned by Palestinians. The problem with this appeal was that these nine homes were built without permits and the law they hoped would protect them is already being challenged in the same court that ordered the evictions.
Despite another law recently passed in the Israeli parliament that retroactively legalized 4,000 homes in the West Bank, the court decision was made on these homes prior to the passage of that bill. This move also came after Israel announced plans for another 6,000 new settlements following the election of Donald Trump hoping for a friendlier atmosphere in Washington.
Trump’s tone seemed to shift slightly from what was expected during his first meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he asked his contemporary to ‘hold off’ on expanding settlements for the time being. While this seemed to shock Netanyahu slightly, Trump followed this up by ending the United State’s long time commitment to finding a two state solution between Israel and Palestine.
The evictions came just days before the March 5th deadline for residents to vacate the properties and the expected date for demolition to start. The latest reports state that the demolitions have begun ahead of schedule now, possibly to avoid any further incidents like today.
This isn’t to imply that the original protests before the evacuations were in any way hostile, most of the primarily young protesters left peacefully on their own accord. Yet when the demolitions started before all the houses were cleared there was some reports of hostilities leaving several officers injured. Apparently once it was clear the homes were being demolished immediately, the protestors in the final house began resisting removal even after they had shared prayers with Israeli police earlier in the day.
It’s still unclear when, or if, the Palestinians who proved that these homes were on their property will be allowed to move back to the area. The settlers on the other hand are most likely only going to move a short distance away to other new homes already being built for them in Ofra. The local Palestinian authorities say that this looks a lot like a publicity stunt to them, to make it appear Israel is making actual changes to settlement policy. It seems that since the nine settler families are still going to be living in the area – just in different homes – that the Palestinians are probably correct and this is just a show to garner international sympathy for Israeli land thieves.