IDF completes evacuation of Oz Zion outpost

Evacuation follows a deal that saw hundreds of youth activists peacefully depart the illegal outpost in the West Bank.

Demolished structure in Oz Zion outpost 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Demolished structure in Oz Zion outpost 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
IDF forces removed the remaining settler activists from the Oz Zion outpost near Beit El in the early morning hours of Sunday morning, at the end of a weekend that started with clashes between teenage activists and Border Police that left five officers lightly injured.
Earlier Saturday night, several hundred religious male high school pupils voluntarily left the outpost in a deal reached with the IDF that prevented a potentially violent forced evacuation on Friday afternoon, right before Shabbat.
The teenagers, who had come to the outpost for Shabbat as part of an event organized by Kiryat Arba Rabbi Dov Lior, Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu and former Kedumim council head Daniella Weiss, had all the while planned to leave Oz Zion, which is adjacent to Beit El, on Saturday night.
It is home to a family and a few young adults, who plan to live at the outpost permanently.
Violence broke out briefly on Friday afternoon when the Border Police arrived at the outpost. Five officers were lightly wounded and treated at the scene, when the youngsters threw rocks at them, Judea and Samaria Police spokesman Ch.-Insp. Dudi Ashraf said. They also punctured the tires of a Border Police vehicle, Ashraf said.
Tzipi Livni, chairwoman of the party bearing her name, immediately used the incident to attack Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett.
“Bennett and extremist rabbis intentionally led people to that hill to create friction with IDF soldiers and a situation of refusal to obey orders,” she said at an event in Kiryat Motzkin, near Haifa.
“They brought people there on the eve of Shabbat, knowing that our children in the army would have to evacuate them,” she said. “Netanyahu, who continues to wink at the extreme Right and his natural partners, stopped the evacuation.
From his perspective, everything can be defiled, just not Shabbat.”
As soon as Shabbat was over, Bennett posted a response on his Facebook page.
“What hill? What rabbis? Whom exactly did I lead? What the hell is she talking about?!” he said.
Bennett said he had enjoyed a quiet and restful Shabbat at home and heard of the incident only after making the Havdalah prayer and then turning on the news.
He said it was becoming standard fare to attack him on Friday night and Saturday when he could not respond because he observes the Sabbath.
“Over Shabbat, they put words into my mouth that I never said (‘Bennett calls to refuse orders’), things I didn’t do (‘Bennett leads people to a hill’), they attack me (‘Bennett is an extremist, etc.’). They do all of this during Shabbat, when I don’t even hear about the news, and I certainly can’t respond,” Bennett wrote.
“If there ever happens to be an illegal outpost that needs to be removed, one can do this on a weekday and not on Shabbat,” he continued.
“Really, a little common sense won’t hurt anyone.”
Labor chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich said on Saturday that while the decision by settlers to leave the Oz Zion outpost without a struggle was the right thing to do, it did not erase Friday’s attacks on Border Police officers.
“Justice must be pursued against the lawbreakers. This was a grave undermining of the rule of law, and a challenge to the state, its laws and the IDF, whose strength is necessary to our existence here,” Yacimovich said. “We see here a clear and dangerous expression of the legitimization of refusal to carry out orders and of selective adherence to the rule of law.”
Oz Zion is located just off Route 60 and next to the Givat Assaf outpost.
Both outposts are near the Beit El settlement in the Binyamin Region.
According to Ashraf, border police received a call from the army shortly after the high school boys arrived at the outpost on Friday.
The IDF told the Border Police that a large group of youths meant to stay in the outpost over the weekend without army approval, and that reinforcements were needed to help remove them from the area, Ashraf said.
When YASSAM special patrol officers and border police arrived, the youths began throwing rocks at them and punctured the tires of a Border Police car.
One person was arrested during the clashes – a minor who threw rocks at a YASSAM officer, Ashraf said. The boy was to be brought to court for a remand hearing on Saturday night, he added.
The IDF secured the perimeter during the incident.
Immediately, telephone calls flew back and forth among the IDF and Binyamin Council head Avi Ro’eh, Lior and Likud MK Ze’ev Ellkin, who heads the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense subcommittee on Judea and Samaria. It has been dealing with the issue of forced evacuation on the Shabbat.
As a result of the phone calls, a deal was reached by which the teens could remain, but they were asked to sleep at the Givat Assaf outpost.
As the teens voluntarily left Oz Zion on Saturday evening, Ashraf said that as far as the Judea and Samaria District Police were concerned, things were back to normal in the area.
Yaakov Lapin, Jeremy Sharon, Gil Hoffman and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.