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      IDF, Police Warn Homesh Supporters Not to Attempt a Return

      The police department and army not only threatened to charge activists returning to Homesh, but also said it would sue them for expenses.
      By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
      First Publish: 3/22/2007, 11:30 PM

      Nationalist activists have announced plans to resettle the evacuated northern Samaria town of Homesh - and the IDF issued a warning Thursday evening not to do so.  They said that Israelis may not enter the town without express permission.
       
      Several organizations have called upon their activist members to be prepared by Monday to enter Homesh, which was uprooted by IDF forces as part of the 2005 Disengagement Plan.

      The army's warning reads: "In light of media reports that Israeli citizens are intending to enter the area of the evacuated community of Homesh over the Passover holiday, in order to resettle it, the IDF and Israel Police wish to clarify that, pursuant to the Disengagement Implementation Law, there is a ban on Israeli citizens entering and staying in the said area without authorization."
      Violation of the Disengagement Law carries a two-year jail sentence.

      The IDF notification further emphasizes that violation of the Disengagement Law's provisions constitute a punishable offense, which carries a two-year jail sentence. "The police, in coordination with IDF forces, will use all necessary means to maintain law and order in the area," the IDF warns. "Law enforcement authorities will prosecute to the full extent of the law those citizens who disrupt the law and order."

      A similar warning letter was sent by the Samaria Police Department to those assumed by police to be organizers of the Homesh return campaign.  Department commander Kobi Cohen wrote that organizers would not only face charges for a "serious infraction of the law," but they would also be sued for expenses incurred by the law enforcement officers.

      The police letter also attempted to play on the patriotic feelings of the organizers, saying that their activity would cause some security forces to forgo ongoing "implementation of lessons learned in the Second Lebanon War." The police chief also wrote that the added burden on the security forces would strain their resources, as "they protect the Israeli public during our coming holidays."

      Activists: "We're Allowed to Go Home"
      Activists in the Legal Forum who received the letters replied on Thursday with their own citation of the Disengagement Law, telling both the police and army officials that Jews are, in fact, allowed to enter cities from which they were expelled. Furthermore, organizers warned the police that observers skilled with cameras will be present to record any violent or otherwise illegal police activity.

      "The big surprise today," organizers said, "is the threat to sue us in civil court for expenses caused to the state in order to put down the return to Homesh. In this, the ridiculous government broke a new record of cynicism and hypocrisy." The Legal Forum activists likened the threat of civil suit against them to the Saddam Hussein regime demanding that families of Iraqis murdered by the state pay for the murderers' bullets.
       
      However, the activists wrote, "We will be happy to pay the expenses immediately after such payment by Raed Salah, the rioters in Bil'in, Mustafa Barghouti, Chaim Ramon, Moshe Katzav, Avraham Hirschson, Shula Zaken, Aryeh Der'i, the Parinian brothers, Omri Sharon, and any other person keeping law enforcement busy and causing them expenses."
       
      As for the additional burden on the security forces, the Homesh return organizers
      Activists likened the threat of civil suit against them to the Saddam Hussein regime.
      announced that they willingly forgo the soldiers' presence. The real damages incurred by the state and the IDF, organizers wrote, came about as a result of the Disengagement Plan. That operation "cost the state the Lebanon war and its outcome, 10 million shekels, the rise of Hamas, and an unprecedented rift in the nation."

      Professors for a Strong Israel, Komemiut (Upright), Maginei Eretz (Defenders of the Land), HaLev HaYehudi (The Jewish Heart) and Mateh Tzafon (Northern Headquarters) organizations have banded together to support the determined activists. A memorandum calling on members to prepare for the event echoes warnings that recall the days before IDF soldiers came to force the residents out of their homes: "The struggle might be long, but we must persevere and cannot back down."
       
      In December 2006, the evicted residents returned to the ruins of their homes to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Chanukah. Roads to the area were sealed off and declared to be closed military zones. At that time, organizers stated that the event marked the first step of a long-range plan to rebuild the destroyed communities.