Settlers and security forces held a tense standoff late Tuesday night in the settlement of Beit El near Jerusalem, as they waited for a High Court of Justice ruling that is expected to seal the fate of two apartment buildings slated for demolition.Hundreds of young adults and activists stood behind steel police barriers, facing the border policemen. Cheers went up from the crowd as activists periodically attempted to break though the barriers.“This will not end well,” said Beit El council head Shai Alon.As the sun set, MK Oren Hazan (Likud) called for the security forces to calm the situation, which was the largest confrontation between settlers and the authorities over a housing demolition since the IDF oversaw the demolition of nine homes at the Amona outpost in the winter of 2006.
Separately some 250 activists held a standoff with security forces amid the ruins of the former settlement of Sa-Nur, one of four northern Samaria communities destroyed 10 years ago during the 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip.Most of them were members of 20 families who used to live in the settlement and are calling on the government to allow them to return.Both events occurred at the start of the 10th anniversary of the forced demolition of 25 settlements in Gaza and northern Samaria.In an unusual move, the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria, which focuses more on political efforts then grassroots ones, threw its support behind the settlers at both sites.But the day’s focus was on Beit El, which saw visits from Bayit Yehudi ministers Naftali Bennett and Uri Ariel, as well as Likud MK Yariv Levin.“This is a real crisis, which I hope will be resolved,” said Levin.For the past week, settlers had rallied around the cause of the two buildings – together comprising 24 unfinished apartments – which the High Court had ordered demolished because they were built on stolen Palestinian land.As the original July 30 deadline for their demolition approached, activists and settlers began to camp out in the empty buildings in hopes of preventing their demolition.In a surprise move, a Border Police unit moved into the buildings before dawn Tuesday and forcibly removed the activists in advance of any final petition to the High Court that might prevent their razing. Some 50 activists were detained.As dawn broke, the situation calmed down, though hundreds of activists and settlers remained in the area. Toward evening, sporadic violence broke out, in which two settlers were lightly hurt.Yigal Dimoni, deputy head of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria, blamed Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon for sending in the Border Police ahead of any decision.That move, he said, “has led to senseless violence.”
Rioting in Beit El (Video credit: Yossi Sabato)