IDF takes tough stance on planned Homesh march

Right-wing activists determined to reach former Samaria settlement.

The IDF issued a strong warning over the weekend in an attempt to deter right-wing activists from marching to the site of the former settlement Homesh, even as the Homesh First coalition reiterated its determination to march to the area Sunday. "Any person involved in reaching Homesh - event organizers, everyone who assists in transportation or any other way, and all of the participants in the event will be carrying out a criminal offense," the IDF Spokesman's Office announced Friday. Army officials confirmed that they had received intelligence that "assorted people" would try to reach the site of Homesh in the next few days. The IDF emphasized unequivocally that permission had not been granted for the activists' plans, and it had no intention to grant permission. Right-wing groups, which last week postponed a planned march to the site of the settlement, intended to commemorate the second anniversary of its August 2005 evacuation. Last week's planned protest was also declared illegal by the police and IDF, and security forces began setting up roadblocks to catch any would-be demonstrators heading towards the isolated location. But even following the initial delay, members of the Homesh First coalition continued to plan for a march to the Samarian hilltop on Sunday, and urged would-be marchers to get ready to spend Tisha Be'av at the site. Marchers were also invited to carry a brick each to begin rebuilding the settlement's synagogue. "We will gather together this Shabbat in communities on the way to Homesh," read one poster publicizing the event. Nearby Samarian settlements hosted activists over Shabbat in order to help them get an early start on Sunday morning. Homesh has become a rallying point for those who wish to turn back the clock on Israel's 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip and four communities in northern Samaria. Starting in December 2006, activists held a series of marches to the hilltop site. On Hanukka and Pessah, marches to Homesh were held without police or IDF sanction. In May and in June, thousands of demonstrators attended marches, promising that Homesh's re-establishment would pave the way to rebuild the other three evacuated Samarian settlements. Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.