Illegal buildings in Beit El settlement razed as new construction approved

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli surety forces demolished two buildings in the West Bank settlement of Beit El after two days of clashes between protestors and police, as more housing was authorized for the community.

The two buildings were razed on Wednesday afternoon after Israel’s Supreme Court upheld earlier orders to demolish the buildings found to be built on Palestinian land that had been seized by the Israel Defense Forces in the 1970s.

Protesters gathered at the site during the demolition, throwing rocks and setting tires on fire. Police worked to remove the protestors using crowd dispersal methods including water cannons.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision Wednesday morning 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.

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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 and 50 of them arrested. Clashes between protesters and police continued throughout the day and evening.

Also on Wednesday, some 200 people remained for a second day on the site of the former Sa-Nur village in the northern West Bank. Despite being warned that they would be evacuated by force if they had not left by 2 p.m. on Tuesday. Many of the people who have taken up residence in the remains of an old British fort on the site were evacuated from their homes ten years ago during the Gaza disengagement, which included four settlements in the northern West Bank. The protesters have said they intend to remain.

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