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Security forces evict settlers in advance of West Bank home demolitions

Israeli security forces clashed last night with activists from the settler community, who had barricaded themselves into homes which the High Court has ordered illegal and to be demolished.

A court demolition order was issued in 2010 on the Dreinoff Buildings in the West Bank settlement of Beit El, on the grounds that the property was registered to Palestinians and the building did not have the correct permits. Following a lengthy legal challenge to the ruling, the High Court ordered last month that the state has until Thursday to destroy the two buildings, which contain 24 housing units.

In advance of the expected demolition, settler youths had recently entered the building in order to protest and attempt to prevent the court order from being carried out. Haaretz says that the protestors had erected makeshift metal barricades and laid down barbed wire in anticipation of a confrontation with security forces.

Shortly after 3am, Israel Police special forces entered the buildings and forcibly removed the protestors. Ynet news says that there were no injuries, but Israel Radio news reports around 30 arrests and Arutz Sheva reports that police used pepper spray on the demonstrators. The IDF said that “in accordance with the High Court’s ruling and with the intention of evacuating and demolishing the Dreinhoff buildings … it was decided to station a Border Police force at the compound.”

The Beit El local council will apparently file a petition with the High Court this morning, in an attempt to prevent the demolitions. The flashpoint in Beit El comes with settler leaders having complained in recent weeks that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instituted a de facto freeze on construction in West Bank communities. Earlier this month, Netanyahu allegedly told local West Bank council leaders that there will be no further construction in settlements beyond what already exists. Agriculture Minister and senior Jewish Home MK Uri Ariel commented last week that, “This notion of a [construction] freeze needs to disappear.”