Ezra: 3 Yitzhar outposts to be removed

Settlers plan mass protest in Jerusalem for Sunday following Amona violence.

gideon ezra face 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
gideon ezra face 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A day after the unprecedented violence at Amona over the demolition of illegal buildings, Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra pledged Thursday that the government will continue dismantling outposts in the West Bank, with three in the Yitzhar region next in line. "Of course there will be a next time," he told The Jerusalem Post, although he didn't provide the names of the outposts or details of when they would be evacuated.
Channel 2 reported early Friday that Amona protesters who were captured on film throwing cinder blocks at soldiers and policemen will be charged with attempted murder, but neither the police nor the Justice Ministry could confirm the report. Settler leaders plan a massive rally for Sunday night in Zion Square to protest police actions at Amona. Protesters will rally under the slogan "[Acting Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert is bad for the Jews." They will also call for an investigation into police actions in clearing away the thousands of demonstrators who came to Amona Wednesday to protest the demolition of the nine homes. MKs, rabbis and injured protesters will speak at the rally, which is being sponsored by the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. Video clips shot during the demonstration will also be shown to illustrate the "brutality" with which the demonstrators, who were mostly teens, were treated, said Council Spokeswoman Emily Amrusi. Residents of the Amona outpost began Thursday to lay the foundation for a permanent synagogue on the site of their 10-year-old community. "It's a symbolic act," which was marked by a stone-laying ceremony in the afternoon with residents of Amona and the neighboring Ofra settlement, said Amona spokesman Ariel Kahana. In spite of the violent clashes, the community wanted to show that it believed in its future by embarking on a new construction project, said Kahana. The settlement of Yitzhar, earmarked by Ezra for the next dismantling of outposts, is located southwest of Nablus. It is believed to have five outposts. One of them, Givat Ariel, is empty and only has one structure; the largest, Shalhevet Yitzhar, has six families and 13 buildings. A third, Mitzpe Yitzhar, has been dismantled three times and was last reestablished in early 2005. Ezra made his comments the day the IDF pulled its troops out the area after the settlement's residents attacked military vehicles and personnel. Ezra also said that despite the large number of injuries at Amona, the government did not plan to set up an inquiry, since the police was carrying out its own internal debriefing, as is standard procedure after every operation. However, in response to demands made by MKs across the political spectrum, the Knesset will convene for a special investigative session next week to examine the Amona incident. Judea and Samaria police Cmdr. Yisrael Yitzhak said the police would carry out debriefings at the regional and national levels, and with the army. "It wasn't a simple event and there were a lot of cooperational units, operational forces, logistics and technology. We want to learn from this," he said. The police carried out an initial debriefing on Wednesday night, Yisrael said, adding that they had already come to some operational conclusions and were considering setting up a unit that deals only with the evacuation of such houses. Yitzhak and Ezra defended the police's actions, with Yitzhak saying that if the police had arrived at Amona without helmets and other protective gear, "we would have suffered fatalities." "The police didn't come to beat people up. They came to establish law and order. Those that introduced violence were the settlers. They need to do some soul-searching. They came to fight using this level of violence and they prepared for it," he said. "When soldiers or police patrol Palestinian neighborhoods and are assaulted with cinder blocks, the order is to shoot the attacker," he said. A border policeman was seriously injured during the Amona clashes after being hit in the head with a cinder block, while another was injured in the leg. Both are still hospitalized in Jerusalem, although 39 policemen who were hospitalized have been discharged. A young demonstrator was recovering from a fractured skull; his mother said he had been beaten by a police baton. Ezra said those who believe the police were too heavy-handed should make a formal complaint. He also defended the tactics of the security forces and said there was nothing they could have done to prevent so many protesters from infiltrating into Amona before the evacuation. "The place was open from all four sides. They came by foot from the wadis. It wasn't possible to stop all of them. It is impossible to close an area for a long time...It's not like in Gaza, where there are checkpoint crossings and it's possible to close them to stop people from arriving," Ezra said. "They gave restraining orders to those who they knew would agitate there. To give a restraining order you need to go to the judge. If there are enough grounds the judge will agree, and if there are not enough grounds the judge won't agree," he said. Although many of the protesters at Amona appeared to be pre-army teenagers, or "hilltop youth," Ezra said they weren't part of an organization "It's not a movement. We call them the hilltop youth, but every one works independently. It's part of the idea that they are not registered with anybody," he said. Meanwhile, the National Union Party also called on the government to form a commission of inquiry on Thursday. National Union leader MK Benny Elon, who was at the Amona protests, said that only luck kept someone from being killed. If the situation remained unchecked, someone would be killed in the next demonstration, he warned. The National Union also announced on Thursday that it planned to do everything in its power to hold Olmert to the letter of the law when it comes to the issue of illegal construction within the pre-1967 borders. The entire faction plans to head to the Negev on Sunday to investigate illegal construction there. It plans to use that information to file petitions to the High Court of Justice to force him to act against construction within the pre-1967 borders by the same standard that he is holding to within Judea and Samaria.