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Hundreds protest evacuation of Ofra buildings

Israeli security forces yesterday evacuated eight of the nine buildings due to be demolished in the West Bank settlement of Ofra, despite protests by hundreds of demonstrators.

The evacuation began yesterday morning and continued throughout the day, as Israeli forces, almost entirely unarmed and wearing blue sweaters instead of military uniforms, removed protestors who had barricaded themselves inside the nine structures.

Minor scuffles took place, resulting in light injuries for 11 police officers and 17 protestors, but the violence was not as serious as the incidents that occurred during the evacuation of the nearby Amona outpost a month ago. Ofra residents issued a statement before the evacuation began, saying: “We will not use crowbars and we will not barricade ourselves.”

This morning, one final building remains occupied by an estimated 200 protestors, who are being removed individually by police.

The evacuation was ordered by Israel’s High Court on Monday after it rejected a petition by the residents to seal, rather than destroy their homes. The residents hoped that by keeping the structures in place, they would eventually be able to apply the new Regulation Law, which retroactively gives residents the right to live in homes built illegally on private Palestinian land if the homes were built unknowingly on private land or with government help.

The High Court ruled that the Regulation Law cannot apply to land and houses where the court has already made a judgement, such as the Ofra buildings. The case was first brought to court in 2008 by the advocacy group Yesh Din, on behalf of the Palestinian landowner.

In 2015, the courts issued a demolition order against the nine homes, with the deadline delayed several times until ordering a final evacuation date of 5 March.