TEL AVIV (Sep. 17)
A serious clash between Jewish squatters and an army unit sent to remove them from an unauthorized site near Kiryat Arba on the West Bank has led a member of Israel’s Supreme Court to agree, at least in principle, with the contention that Jewish settlers on the West Bank do not contribute to security but are themselves a security problem because they disobey military government orders and fight with soldiers.
Acting Chief Justice Alfred Vitkon made that observation last Friday in the course of a hearing on the Elon Moreh case. Elon Moreh is a new Gush Emunim settlement near Nablus where work has been halted pending a Supreme Court decision as to whether the expropriation of Arab-owned land was justified for security reasons. The counsel for the Arab land-owners argued that in light of what happened near Kiryat Arba last Thursday night, no one can take seriously the claim that the settlers contribute to Israel’s security. Vitkon said he could only endorse the spirit of that statement.
One soldier was badly burned when the squatters, Gush Emunim members from Kiryat Arba, poured kerosene on tires and set them on fire to prevent the troops from reaching the site. The squatters had broken through a perimeter fence and erected prefabricated but on the land which they demand must be added to Kiryat Arba so that the Orthodox township adjacent to Hebron can be expanded. They stationed women and children in the huts and defied entreaties by army officers to leave peacefully.
After hours of fruitless negotiations, army units were called in including a squad of engineers with cranes and women soldiers to ###evacuate the women and children. The squatters were eventually removed by force and their huts dismantled. Some were taken to military government headquarters and others to a local police station. Ten were brought before a magistrate who ordered their detention for 48 hours. The injured soldier was hospitalized for treatment of his burns.