Waving Israeli and orange settler flags, thousands of activists ignored IDF orders and walked to the evacuated settlement of Homesh in Samaria to celebrate Independence Day. The army originally approved the march last week, but then rescinded the authorization, saying that "anyone attempting to enter or inhabit the area will be breaking the law."
Settlers vow to ignore IDF ban on march to Homesh
But protesters ignored the edict and hiked to the area from the settlement of Shavei Shomron.
While the IDF blocked vehicles from entering the area, the soldiers did not prevent the activists from walking to Homesh, one of four north Samaria settlements evacuated during the August 2005 disengagement.
The demonstrators included families. Parents could be seen wheeling baby carriages or holding their children's hands.
Yossi Dagan, a former resident of the evacuated settlement of Sa-Nur who helped organize the protest, told The Jerusalem Post that some 13,000 people had participated.
"It was a great stride forward in the battle to return to Homesh and to undo the mistake the government committed by evacuating the settlement," he said.
While the overall mood was festive, the demonstration was not free of violence.
Early in the afternoon, two soldiers were lightly wounded by an activist at a checkpoint near Kedumim, military sources said.
The troops were stationed there to prevent cars from driving to Homesh. They were treated in an army clinic and one of the assailants was arrested.
Activists also lay down on the road connecting Shavei Shomron and Homesh, to block IDF vehicles. The IDF said that a number of their vehicles' tires were slashed. Three activists were arrested in connection with these incidents.
The IDF said "it took a grave view of acts of violence against soldiers, particularly on Independence Day."
Dagan denied reports of violence against the IDF.
"It's not true," he said. This was a Zionist event in which people celebrated their love of the land and the country, Dagan said.
Nobel Prize laureate Prof. Robert (Yisrael) Aumann was among the participants, Dagan said.
At the end of the day, he said, activists descended from the hilltop where Homesh once stood. As Dagan spoke, there were still several hundred people at the site, hoping the IDF would allow buses through to take them away.
Initially, he said, the organizers had rented buses to take people back to their cars, but the IDF refused to allow them to drive to Homesh.
Army Radio reported late Tuesday that several dozen activists remained at Homesh, and were refusing to leave.
It was the third such march to the site. On Hanukka and again during Pessah, activists held similar events. Dagan said they intended to keep returning to Homesh until they were allowed to rebuild the community.