Hundreds of settlers march against Palestinian construction

Hundreds of right-wing activists demonstrated in the West Bank on Monday against unauthorized Palestinian construction in Area C, which constitutes some 60 percent of the territory, and is under full Israeli security and civil control.

The settler protests were held in the Hebron Hills, Binyamin, and Etzion bloc regions of the West Bank, along with other areas. Some 100 demonstrators also marched from the Tapuah Junction to the new illegal Israeli outpost of Evyatar, the site of recent deadly clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces.

The protesters accused the Israeli government of turning a blind eye to rampant illegal Palestinian building in the area, and called for greater enforcement.

Israel occasionally demolishes Palestinian structures in Area C that it says lack the necessary permits. Palestinians say obtaining permits is extremely hard. Such demolitions frequently draw international condemnation. Between 2016 and 2018, just 21 of the 1,485 Palestinian applications for construction permits in Area C were approved by the Defense Ministry, or 0.81 percent.

Yossi Dagan, the head of the Samaria Regional Council, said the marches aimed to raise awareness of the “reality and the hypocrisy” of Israel’s uneven response to unapproved Jewish and Palestinian building in the area.

“This is political persecution against the residents of Judea and Samaria,” he claimed, referring to the West Bank by its biblical name.

Palestinian protesters attend a demonstration against the Evyatar settlement outpost, south of Nablus, on June 4, 2021, in the West Bank. (JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP)

The marches came as the Israel Defense Forces rejected out of hand an appeal against the planned evacuation and demolition of Evyatar.

Settler residents of the outpost had hoped to stop the planned evacuation, but the military denied their request on Sunday. “The Evyatar outpost was established illegally. Everything was done in complete violation of the law and without any proprietary or planning agreements,” the IDF Central Command wrote.

The residents can now appeal to Israel’s top court, the High Court of Justice, but their petition is unlikely to be accepted there.

The land on which Evyatar was reestablished in April historically belonged to the adjacent Palestinian villages of Beita, Kablan, and Yitma, though residents have been barred access to it for decades, for what the IDF has said are security reasons.

The outpost has quickly grown over the last two months, swelling to roughly 50 buildings for dozens of families. The outpost’s Facebook page boasts that Evyatar prevents contiguity between the surrounding Palestinian villages while connecting the Israeli settlement of Tapuah to the Za’atara Junction and Migdalim settlement.

The area around Evyatar has seen repeated clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians in recent weeks following the reestablishment of the outpost.

Palestinians near the adjacent Beita hurled stones at troops and burned swaths of land, while Israeli soldiers responded with riot dispersal munitions and, in some cases, live bullets. In recent weeks, four Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire in the clashes.

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