Monday, July 23, 2007

Police remove right-wing activists from former West Bank settlement of Homesh

Last update - 13:51 23/07/2007
By Nadav Shragai and Yuval Azoulay, Haaretz Correspondents

Border Police forces completed on Monday to forcibly evacuate hundreds of right-wing activists who had infiltrated the former of West Bank settlement of Homesh overnight. Police forces, equipped with water hoses.

Police arrested some 10 activists during the evacuation, while several of the protesters fled.

The activists, barred by the police and the army from marching to the Homesh on Sunday, covertly entered the site early Monday morning and began building a synagogue.They also erected a wooden tower on a hill north of the settlement to mark two years since Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip in the 2005 disengagement.

Homesh was one of four northern West Bank settlements that were also evacuated during the disengagement. Right-wing activists have held four previous marches to the ruins of Homesh seeking to resettle the area.

According to protesters, the police brutalized women during the evacuations. The activists also complained that some of the police officers failed to wear identification tags. They reported that their cameras had been confiscated and their memory cards destroyed.

The police responded saying "we don't have the tools to investigate these claims."

On Sunday evening, After police forces removed the protesters from the area surrounding the settlement, the activists apparently hid in wooded areas and waited for the authorities to leave. They then entered the site, each carrying a brick, and began rebuilding a synagogue that had been demolished during the disengagement.

Border Police officers demolished the structure that the activists had erected overnight.

Earlier Sunday evening, dozens of activists evacuated from the Homesh area by police entered a nearby Palestinian village and hurled rocks at the residents' homes.

The residents of the West Bank village of Burkah responded to the settlers' attack by hurling rocks back at them, as large police and army forces arrived to calm the situation.

As the Israel Defense Forces troops were attempting to calm the hostilities, several Palestinians detonated an explosive device, aimed at harming the IDF troops. No one was injured in the incident.

Border Police officers forcibly evacuated several dozen of the activists from the West Bank village.

Homesh First, a group which had organized Sunday's march as well as previous ones, reported that six teens had been injured when Border Policemen beat them with sticks, and that one of them had lost consciousness. However, the Magen David Adom emergency medical services reported that there had been no one injured during the conflict.

An army source reported that the settlers had caused damage to two military vehicles.

Protesters had been gathering at the site since Sunday morning, among them youths and families who had been evacuated from Homesh and Sa-Nur and who were seeking to resettle the area.

Yossi Dagan of Homesh First said some 600 protesters had reached the area, but would not advance to the settlement itself in order to avoid confrontation with police.

When the police arrived at the site in order to remove the activists, some of them fled to hills further away, while the rest were put onto buses and taken to Kfar Sava. That stage of the evacuation was completed relatively peacefully, without any violent clashes.

Nevertheless, the hills surrounding Homesh were still occupied Sunday evening by hundreds of youths, who Dagan said would try again to reach the former settlement. He said that two more groups were expected overnight, and that they would try to march to Homesh.

Thousands of people had been expected to try to make their way to the former settlement, and hundreds spent the weekend at local settlements.

At the end of last week, the police forcibly removed dozens of teenage boys and adults who had managed to reach Homesh.

On Thursday, police questioned Dagan and another Homesh First leader, Boaz Haetzni. Dagan claimed afterward "an unprecedented political interrogation."

"It is a disgrace that in a democratic, Western country in the 21st century, the government dares to use the police to interrogate citizens about statements in the media," Dagan said. Haetzni made similar comments.

Police summoned for questioning Sunday morning Limor Harmelech, the widow of Shalom Harmelech who was murdered by terrorists several years ago. On Friday, police arrested in another West Bank settlement activists who had pasted up notices about Sunday's procession to Homesh.

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