IDF commanders in the West Bank announced Wednesday night that settlers and their supporters will not be permitted to make what has become an annual Passover pilgrimage to a northern Samaria settlement that was evacuated during the 2005 disengagement, Army Radio reported.
Homesh, one of four Jewish towns in the West Bank whose residents were evicted in 2005 as part of the withdrawal initiated by the government of Ariel Sharon, attracts crowds of settlers who pay a visit to the site every year during Passover.
The army ban comes on the heels of growing tensions between the military and the religiously devout portion of the Israeli settler community following the violent clashes in Yitzhar which left a number of Border Policemen injured.
Before dawn Tuesday, security forces entered the settlement to carry out demolition orders against homes that were built illegally. During the operation, settlers attacked police and destroyed an army post.
The Yitzhar evacuation was perceived by many as the defense establishment’s retaliation against an incident two days earlier, when unidentified assailants slashed the tires of an IDF colonel during a visit to the settlement. It was the second time in the last three months that the military jeep belonging to Col. Yoav Yarom, the commander of the IDF Samaria Regional Brigade, was vandalized in Yitzhar.
The army’s decision to deny access to Homesh during Passover was met with criticism by the religious Zionist camp. Orit Struck, a member of Knesset from the pro-settler Bayit Yehudi faction, said the move amounted to “collective punishment against a large constituency.”
“I call on the defense minister to order that the event be permitted to proceed as planned and to act against lawbreakers with means and norms that befit a state of law and that do not include collective punishment,” Struck said.