JERUSALEM (JTA) — Residents and supporters of the Ulpana neighborhood in the West Bank held a morning prayer service as moving vans arrived to evacuate them from the disputed properties.
The first 15 families living in the outlying neighborhood of the Beit El settlement moved to trailer homes set up at a nearby army base on Tuesday. The other 15 families will move Thursday, according to Israel’s Ministry of Defense.
The five apartment buildings are to be moved to 4.5 acres of state land that was a Border Police base and will be annexed to the settlement. Three hundred other dwellings also will be built there.
Movers hired by the Defense Ministry began packing up the families Tuesday morning. Four families said they would passively resist the evacuation, and all the families are asking media outlets to report that they are being forced from their homes and refrain from saying that the evacuation is by agreement. An agreement to evacuate and move the buildings was struck between the government and Beit El Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed.
A statement from the Ministry of Defense said "The operation is being carried out in full coordination, and with the agreement of community leaders and the residents themselves."
The residents wore black shirts Tuesday morning that said "We Will Return."
More than 100 Defense Ministry employees and contractors participated in the operation, according to the ministry.
A team composed of employees and contractors has been assigned to each family, the ministry said, adding that it would "provide full assistance to the families during the operation and during their integration into the temporary neighborhood."
Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in September that the neighborhood should be razed, siding with a lawsuit filed by Palestinians who said they owned the land. A July 1 deadline was set for the evacuation.
On Tuesday, Israel’s state attorney asked the Supreme Court to delay the dismantling of the Ulpana buildings by 4 1/2 months, saying that while the people and their possessions will be moved by the July 1 deadline, it will take the extra time to dismantle the buildings and move them to a different location.