Occupation Army Blocks Peace Activists March to West Bank Settlement

The far-right government on Friday acknowledged for the first time that it allowed illegal construction to take place at Homesh in the occupied Palestinian territories, as soldiers barred hundreds Israeli peace activists and Palestinians from reaching the illegal outpost. The occupation army blocked several hundred activists, among them Hadash and Communist Party of Israel members, from marching toward Homesh in the northern West Bank, violently dispersing the group calling for the dismantlement of the settlement.

MK Ofer Cassif marching with peace activists calling for the dismantlement of the Homesh settlement in the occupied territories, July 7, 2023 (Photo: Zo Haderech)

Central Command chief Yehuda Fuchs ruled Friday that the demonstration would not be approved, citing “security concerns.” Roughly a kilometer into the march, participants were stopped by Israeli troops who handed them a military order signed by Fuchs, which stated that the area they were seeking to reach had been temporarily declared a closed military zone. The marchers sought to go around the soldiers, walking through Palestinian olive groves. In order to disperse them, soldiers hurled stun grenades. However, they sparked a fire in the fields, torching an acre’s-worth of crops.

Blasting Fuchs’s decision to block the march, Peace Now said in a statement that “peace-seeking Israelis are held back by the army with severe violence, while the violent criminals from the Homesh outpost who looted private lands and carry out atrocities against Palestinians are allowed to roam freely and receive VIP treatment.” Hadash MK Ofer Cassif, who took part in the march, posted a video from the scene on social media, said that the soldiers used tear gas and smoke bombs against the activists, causing brushfires in the area. “[The army] is letting the vandals from Homesh enter the area, even though it’s against the law, but they’re not letting us,” Cassif. “This is what the occupation looks like.”

Responding to a High Court of Justice petition, the far-right government stated that Defense Minister Yoav Gallant had ordered the army to allow the illegal construction at Homesh in late May. The Yesh Din rights group that filed the High Court petition sent Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara a letter urging her to open a criminal probe against Gallant and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who is also a minister in the Defense Ministry in charge of settlement affairs. Baharav-Miara has so far held off on such a move.

Yesh Din slammed the government response, saying the state violated its explicit commitment to the court not to seek to establish a permanent settlement at Homesh, which was evacuated along with several other northern West Bank settlements as part of Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza.

“The state’s response amounts to the implementation of its policy of annexation and apartheid. As the political echelon cooperates with an act of criminality, the bureaucrats go out of their way to reward criminals and establish a permanent settlement on the lands of the Palestinian village of Burka while completely ignoring the property rights and security of the Palestinian landowners,” Yesh Din said.

Related: https://maki.org.il/en/?p=30446