Army Evacuates Gush Emunim from Unauthorized Sites on West Bank

Army units evacuated two groups of Gush Emunim settlers from unauthorized sites on the West Bank today without incident. But other developments indicated that the government is speeding up plans to multiply settlements in that territory and expand existing ones. At least two sites that were seized by the Gush without authorization during the past 18 months will be turned over to them shortly with official blessings.

Deputy Defense Minister Mordechai Zipori announced on the Army Radio today that preparatory work is proceeding to create the infrastructure for future settlements in the Samaria and Judaea districts. In fact, he said, this work was never suspended, despite Israel’s agreement to freeze settlement activity during the period of peace negotiations with Egypt.

It was learned from reliable sources, meanwhile, that the controversial settlement established by the Gush near the Kadum army camp in the heart of Samaria almost two years ago will be given civilian status. Originally declared illegal by the Labor-led government which was then in office, the Gush were allowed to remain on the land nominally part of the military compound. But the army will soon relocate its base leaving the original camp entirely to the Gush.

Similarly, the Gush will soon be granted permanent settlement rights at Shilo, an area they seized without authorization last year. The Likud government allowed them to remain on the pretext that they were on an archaeological expedition, a ruse that proved embarrassing to the authorities and was emphatically denied by the Gush themselves.

The government insists that all settlement moves be carried out according to plan and with official authorization. In today’s developments, two Gush groups took over land near Giv On north of Jerusalem without permission. One, consisting largely of Soviet Jewish emigres attracted to the Gush ideology, encamped at Tel Chadasha, an ancient site mentioned in accounts of the Maccabean wars. The squatters comprised 25 families equipped with tents, water tanks and barbed wire for fencing. The other group established itself at Nebi Samuel, a mountain slope northwest of Jerusalem.

WEST BANK ROADS BLOCKED

Army units surrounded both places and after prolonged negotiations, the squatters were removed without offering resistance. The evacuation of Tel Chadasha was complicated by the presence of two observers from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. The Gush refused to leave until the Americans were ordered away.

The upsurge of Gush activity today led the army to seal off roads on the West Bank. A group of children from the Gush settlement at Kadum encountered a police road block while on a walking tour in northern Samaria. When the police refused to remove the barrier, the youngsters were ordered by their teachers to block the main highway. They were allowed to continue their trip after a senior army officer intervened with the police. But other Gush groups continued to block roads on the West Bank today in protest against the police action.

Meanwhile, the government is expected to give authorization soon for several new settlements in the Samaria and Judaea districts. These will include a settlement called Mathatyahu, to be populated by Orthodox Jews and another in the Lucipher area near Hebron. The latter site was previously settled but then abandoned because of internal difficulties. Three more settlements are to be established by the para-military Nahal in the Jordan Valley.

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