(Video: Tovah Lazaroff)
Security forces demolished six unauthorized homes in the Ma’aleh Rehavam outpost on Wednesday in accordance with a High Court of Justice mandate.
The outpost, which was created in 2001, is located just outside the Nokdim settlement in the Gush Etzion region of the West Bank.
The IDF is also poised to take down seven homes in the Givat Assaf outpost, outside Beit El, which was founded in 2001.
The structures that were demolished in Ma’aleh Rehavam, and those slated for removal in Givat Assaf, are located on private Palestinian property and were part of a 2007 Peace Now petition to the court.
In an attempt to wrap up the seven-year case, the High Court of Justice had ruled that the 14 homes must be removed by May 18. Security forces are moving on the issue now in advance of Shabbat.
Ma’aleh Rehavam residents had argued that the eight structures that were demolished – the six homes, a storage container and a pergola – were on state land, saying that part of the problem was a 2012 land survey that reclassified some state land as private Palestinian property.
Attempts to receive an injunction to halt demolitions failed.
The Gush Etzion Regional Council failed to find a solution with the Defense Ministry, and as a result residents opposed the demolitions and in some cases did not pack all of their possessions.
Residents tried to stop security forces from entering the outpost by placing burning tires and trash cans along the road leading to the outpost.
In one instance, a few settlers climbed onto the roof of a home slated for demolition.
Two women physically attacked a border policeman and were subsequently arrested on assault charges. Four other men were arrested for interfering with a police operation.
Security forces entered the outpost at around 10:30 a.m.
and left seven hours later, leaving large amounts of debris on the hilltop.
“This is a difficult sight. The forces are removing entire families from their homes and destroying their whole lives. Structures have disappeared as if they never existed.
We will continue to build our homes here,” Ma’aleh Rehavam spokesman Moshe Atalo said.
On Wednesday evening, residents of the six homes already began making plans to rebuild their homes in the outpost as they struggled to find places to sleep.
In Givat Assaf, residents waited a High Court of Justice decision to their petition to delay the demolition of seven homes.
On Wednesday morning, MK Yoni Chetboun (Bayit Yehudi) visited the outpost to speak with its residents.
The two outposts are a part of a larger, six-outpost legal case. The other communities are: Ramat Gilad, Mitzpe Yitzhar, Mitzpe Lachish and Givat Haroeh.
Peace Now had initially asked the High Court of Justice to order the removal of all six outposts under the claim that they were built illegally and without proper authorizations.
In its responses to the court, the state said it had plans to authorize the six outposts, if legally possible, but had not yet done so.
In November 2013, the High Court of Justice ordered the state to stop “dragging its feet” on the legalization issue and said that homes on private property Palestinian property must be removed in these outposts.
Mitzpe Lachish is built entirely on state land. In Ramat Gilad homes on private Palestinian property were relocated and in Mitzpe Yitzhar they had already been demolished. In Givat Haroeh there is a legal issue with the access road.
The High Court of Justice further mandated that the state must submit information to the court by May 18 to show steps it had taken to legalize the six outposts.
Ben Hartman contributed to this story.