Illegal buildings in West Bank settlement razed, new construction approved


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Two illegal buildings in a West Bank settlement were demolished amid violent protests, but the Israeli government authorized new housing for the Beit El community.

The buildings were razed on Wednesday afternoon after Israel’s Supreme Court that morning upheld earlier rulings to demolish them and one day before the court’s deadline.

Protesters for a second straight day gathered at the site, throwing rocks and setting tires on fire. Police dispersed the protesters using water cannons and other methods.

The buildings were found to be built on Palestinian land that had been seized by the Israeli military in the 1970s.

Following the court’s decision and pressure from parties in his government coalition, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced approval for the construction of 200 housing units in Beit El. He also approved the planning of 500 new housing units in Jewish neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem.

Jewish Home party head Naftali Bennett, whose party threatened to leave the coalition over the incident, commended Netanyahu for the approval, saying in a tweet: “I praise the prime minister for his quick, correct and Zionist decision.”

On Tuesday, about 200 protesters were removed from the buildings; 50 were arrested. Clashes between protesters and police continued throughout the day and evening.

Also Wednesday, some 200 people remained for a second day on the site of the former Sa-Nur village in the northern West Bank despite warnings that they would be evacuated by force if they had not left by Tuesday afternoon. Many of those who have taken up residence in the remains of an old British fort on the site were evacuated from their homes 10 years ago during the Gaza disengagement, which included four settlements in the northern West Bank. The protesters have said they intend to remain.

Recommended from JTA