outpost evacuation 88.
(photo credit: )
Security forces faced off against a volley of curses, fists and violence throughout the day Thursday as they evacuated several illegal outposts established by a new right-wing youth movement throughout the West Bank a day earlier.
On Thursday afternoon, police evacuated the last outpost near Efrat and completed the operation within three hours, after police said they were just playing "cat and mouse games" with the settlers. Eight activists were detained for questioning and one policeman was wounded during scuffles.
The remands of four of the youths, aged 18-19, were extended until November 2. They were charged with endangering lives on a public thoroughfare.
IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz blasted the "bullying and violence" against his officers. "The physical and verbal violence displayed are nothing but a show of ingratitude toward soldiers and their commanders who are doing their utmost day and night to provide security to the residents of the state," he said in a statement issued Thursday.
"There is no place for this in a normal country. The IDF and police are determined to locate these culprits bring them to justice," Halutz added.
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz promised that the violence against IDF officers during Thursday's outpost evacuation would be dealt with to the fullest extent of the law.
"This is sheer criminal activity. It is unacceptable that on the same day when we are obliged to invest all our attention in thwarting terrorism and embracing the victims' families, that we should also visit officers and soldiers who were attacked by Jews," Mofaz said.
OC Central Command General Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh echoed Halutz and Mofaz in his condemnation, and added that "relations with the Elon Moreh settlement would be reexamined."
He said he expected the Yesha Council and its rabbis to also condemn the violence.
Under the slogan "Instead of destruction - expansion," dozens of Hilltop Youth calling themselves "Youths for the Land of Israel," laid ground for what they said would be new neighborhoods in the settlements of Efrat in Gush Etzion, Kiryat Arba near Hebron and the Samaria settlements of Elon Moreh and Kedumim. The decision to establish the new outposts was made in defiance of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who the right-wing activists said had succumbed to US pressure not to expand existing settlements in the territories.
"This is only the beginning," declared Arik Yitzhaki - a Gush Katif evacuee who led the activists in settling the new outpost near Efrat. "We lost the battle in Gaza but the fight over the land of Israel is still ahead of us."
But security forces were quick to respond, and after midnight, hundreds of policemen and soldiers evacuated the outposts near Kedumim, Elon Moreh and Kiryat Arba while encountering a fierce opposition. Some 50 tires of police and military jeeps were slashed and activists threw rocks at the security forces. Three activists, including head of the Kedumim Regional Council Daniella Weiss, were arrested during the evacuation.
Weiss was placed under house arrest until October 31. During her detention, police expect to file an indictment against Weiss.
As predicted, the outpost near Elon Moreh proved to be the most difficult to evacuate. At 2:30 AM security forces entered the outpost after an ultimatum they had presented the settlers had expired. The soldiers and policemen were met by curses and were called "Nazis," "Jew haters," and "Judenrat" by the 150 youths who were holed up on the hill. At one point, scuffles broke out between the soldiers and the settlers and an officer with the rank of Lt.-Col. was punched in the face and had his ranks ripped off his uniform.
And, towards the end of the evacuation, some 30 activists set the bus they were on afire and security forces rushed aboard to rescue them from the growing flames.
Yitzhaki said Wednesday that the movement numbered some 2,000 youths between 17 and 20-years-old, most of whom infiltrated Gush Katif prior to disengagement and participated in the resistance to the evacuation.
"The idea is not to establish new settlements but to reinforce existing ones and to ensure their safety," he said. "[Shimon] Peres, [Yossi] Beilin and [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon want to remove over 30 settlements from the West Bank and today we have begun acting against their evil plan."
Yitzhaki said that the new movement would not just focus on settling new outposts but would also work to replace the existing settler leaders from the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip (Yesha). He has called for a meeting of right-wing activists next Monday in Kedumim to vote for a new settler leadership - one he said would "effectively fight for the land of Israel."
"The Yesha leadership failed in the fight against the Gaza eviction," the firebrand activist said. "They didn't succeed and it has come time for them to turn their focus to municipal issues such as collecting garbage and not to the fight over the Land of Israel."
Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra recently told The Jerusalem Post that Israel would begin evacuating the illegal outposts in the West Bank in the near future.
"It is part of the Road Map and it will be done," he said. "We cannot expect the other side to fulfill their obligations in the road map if we don't fulfill our obligations and evacuate the outposts."