Settlers spend Shabbat in Homesh; activists clash in Hebron Hills

A number of settler activists who secretly made their way to the former northern Samaria settlement of Homesh on Friday and fled security forces who arrived to evacuate them returned to the site moments before the start of Shabbat. The IDF said it would allow them to remain there until the end of Shabbat. After Shabbat, the settlers left the site. Nearly 100 activists were forcibly removed earlier Friday by IDF, police and Border Police units. Police spokesman Moshe Pinchi said between 70 to 100 people had attempted to return to Homesh, which was evacuated along with three other settlements in the northern West Bank during the 2005 disengagement plan. Seven were arrested and held for questioning, Pinchi said. The security forces, led by the IDF's Samaria Brigade and the Samaria Police District, decided to evacuate the activists after an initial security assessment, during which they weighed whether or not to let the settlers remain at the site through Shabbat. A settler spokesperson said that all of the activists were male and over the age of 18, and that some were armed with personal weapons so as not to require IDF protection. The settlers had said that they would not confront security forces if a decision were made to remove them. Elsewhere on Friday, two settlers and a left-wing activist were arrested following clashes in the Hebron Hills. The left-wing activists were there to assist Palestinian shepherds tend their flocks when they were allegedly attacked by the settlers. The eight activists, who belonged to Rabbis for Human Rights, said that as they had arrived to help the Palestinians, they were confronted by two setters with a dog. The settlers reportedly started to hit the activists and also broke cameras belonging to several international volunteers, they said. In addition, the settlers, who were reportedly carrying clubs, also allegedly verbally attacked RHR's executive director, Rabbi Arik Ascherman, and threatened to kill him and his family. AP contributed to this report.