Memo: Army will demolish settlement construction

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel’s army will demolish structures built in West Bank settlements during the construction freeze, according to an internal military memo.

Several Israeli media outlets reported Sunday on the leaked memo, which calls on the Israel Defense Forces to use drones and photography from the air to identify illegal construction.

"Lightning operations" by special forces would destroy the illegally built structures, the memo says, and the areas around the settlements in which construction is demolished would become military zones closed to the media.

The document requires attempts at dialogue with settlers before any surprise actions to destroy construction.

Israeli troops would evict settlers "only in extreme instances which will be decided upon individually," the memo says, according to Ha’aretz. Soldiers would be required to intervene if violence broke out, according to reports. There are concerns about troops refusing to evacuate fellow Jews; police are generally charged with handling the actual evictions.  

The operation will be headed by the IDF’s Judea and Samaria Brigade, according to Ynet.

The memo also calls for immediate legal action against settlers who riot and attack security personnel or damage military equipment.

The Defense Ministry responded to reports of the leaked memo, saying that if settlers do not violate the construction freeze the outlined actions would not take place.

"The only thing needed from settlement leaders and settlers is to abide by the cabinet’s decision regarding the settlement building freeze that will be imposed for a limited time to avoid the need to use force or clashes with the security forces," said the statement released Sunday. 

The IDF responded to the reports with a statement noting that the "Civil Administration, the Israeli Police and the Border Police are the relevant authorities who deal with Israeli civilians, as is customary." It went on to say that "Israeli citizens have a responsibility to leave the IDF, its officers and its soldiers out of politics."

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